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One day in October 1998, William D. Snapp says his boss ordered him to take action that would make their agency’s Atlanta legal staff more efficient. Get rid of at least two senior attorneys, Snapp says he was told. Older people lack motivation. Replacing them with younger people would improve the office’s productivity and warn other senior staffers to pick up the pace, Snapp says he was told. Snapp was dumbfounded. As the regional attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Atlanta, his job was to police the workplace and ensure that workers weren’t discriminated against because of their race, gender — or age. The orders to terminate the most senior members of his staff came from Ronald Arrington, the EEOC’s assistant general counsel in Washington, according to the attorney. Arrington allegedly issued the directive after consulting with General Counsel C. Gregory Stewart, Snapp claimed in federal court filings in Atlanta. “I’m just very disturbed that you have a person who is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the law who has, himself, engaged in the kind of conduct” promoted by the EEOC’s top legal executives, Snapp says. Eventually, two senior trial attorneys were forced into retirement — an assertion the EEOC denies — and Snapp says he was demoted when he wouldn’t cooperate in their dismissals. As a result of the allegations, the EEOC now finds itself in the uncomfortable position of being sued for discrimination in U.S. District Court by the attorneys who shepherded through court the agency’s civil actions against private employers throughout Georgia. Snapp v. Castro, No. 1:01-cv-367 (N.D. Ga. Feb. 6, 2001). The attorneys Snapp says he was told to target also have filed their own suits. They are 25-year agency veteran Maureen Malone, 56, and William M. Outlaw, 62. Malone v. Castro, No. 1-00-cv-0988 (N.D. Ga. Aug. 31, 2000); Outlaw v. Castro, No. 1-00-cv-1008 (N.D. Ga. April 19, 2000). Several months after Snapp refused to fire them, they claim, the general and assistant general counsels in Washington told them they would be terminated if they didn’t accept transfers to offices in Los Angeles and Milwaukee. In court filings, the EEOC confirms that two other EEOC staff attorneys in Atlanta, ages 57 and 50, have filed internal harassment complaints alleging that they, too, have been discriminated against because of their age. Edward D. Buckley, a partner with Greene, Buckley, Jones & McQueen who is suing the EEOC on behalf of the three attorneys, says that allegations of age discrimination are not a problem unique to the EEOC’s Atlanta office. “The direction to Mr. Snapp to eliminate some senior employees came from Washington from the general counsel,” the attorney says. Mandatory transfers, according to Malone’s claim, are routinely used to force older employees into accepting retirement. Buckley also says that the 53-year-old Snapp’s race (he is white) was “an issue in his replacement.” An African-American man who still hasn’t passed the Georgia Bar exam eventually replaced Snapp, Buckley says. “We think the evidence will bear out that race was an issue in the replacement of Mr. Snapp,” says Buckley. “Snapp is a highly qualified and respected lawyer. He taught the EEOC’s trial practices program, and he was replaced by a lawyer who is not even licensed to practice law in the state of Georgia,” Buckley says. Snapp is currently the chairman of the Labor and Employment Law section of the State Bar of Georgia and was this year named an Equal Employment Opportunity Fellow with the American Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Law section. In answers to complaints filed by Malone and Outlaw, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Powell, who is defending the EEOC, claims in court filings that a review of the allegations in Outlaw’s and Malone’s complaints — which are similar to Snapp’s — “are based on statements by a disgruntled EEOC employee, William Snapp, who made the recited allegations following notice of his demotion from the position of Regional Attorney of the EEOC’s Atlanta district office.” INSTRUCTIONS FROM WASHINGTON When Snapp was told to take disciplinary actions against his older lawyers that would lead to their ouster, he says, he instead gathered his staff and told them what he had been ordered to do. “They needed to know that some of them had been unlawfully targeted,” Snapp explains. Malone says she was stunned that she had become a target but wasn’t completely surprised that the EEOC would break its own rules. For years, she says, EEOC trial lawyers had shared an inside joke that the agency “would require us to hold an employer to the line … when we were the biggest violators of all.” Snapp says he initially thought he could save the jobs of the older employees by making an all-out effort to improve the regional office’s productivity. In 1997, the EEOC measured the success of regional offices by the number of civil cases they tried. That criterion made Atlanta one of the top offices in the nation, according to Snapp. But at the end of 1998, Snapp says he was told that the number of cases filed would instead be the measure of productivity. Snapp alleges he was instructed to increase the number of civil cases in litigation “without regard to the quality of the cases filed.” One supervisor suggested to Snapp that his legal staff file “garbage” civil cases that had little or no merit, his complaint contends. “You can afford it,” Snapp alleges he was told by an EEOC staff attorney in Washington. “The quality of your current cases is pretty good. You should see some of the ‘garbage’ that other offices have filed.” Snapp says he didn’t file “garbage,” but his staff did increase their case filings. By November 1998, shortly after Snapp claims he was told to fire older employees, the Atlanta district office was number one in the nation in cases filed and number two in class action cases filed, he says. But Snapp says that wasn’t enough to save him from retaliation after he refused to force out the older lawyers. In a meeting in Washington on Jan. 27, 1999, EEOC General Counsel Stewart informed Snapp that his performance was “unacceptable.” As a result, he was being demoted. A short time later, Snapp accepted his current post as an EEOC arbitrator. Stewart, a presidential appointee, submitted his resignation when President George Bush took office but remains as Acting General Counsel. He did not return a telephone call to his office, which referred calls to EEOC spokesman Reginald A. Welch. Welch declined to comment on the case. Within six months of Snapp’s demotion, Outlaw and Malone say, they were targeted for replacement. On July 20, 1999 — a day after the EEOC posted vacancy announcements for two trial attorney positions in Atlanta — Outlaw was reassigned to Los Angeles. He was given 40 days to report to his new assignment or risk being fired for being “absent without leave,” according to a letter signed by Stewart. Outlaw notes that the Atlanta office already was short two trial attorneys and had a bigger caseload than Los Angeles. And Outlaw wasn’t licensed to practice law in California, a requirement of Los Angeles’ federal courts. “In my more than 20 years with the government,” Outlaw continues, “I have never known of someone who is not a manager to be transferred without their request.” Considering that he was over 60 years old and his wife had a good job in Atlanta, he says he “can’t imagine that they really expected me to go to L.A.” Outlaw says he learned later that his Los Angeles EEOC supervisor had never been informed of the transfer. When he elected to retire instead of move, he says he was replaced by a 27-year-old EEOC attorney from Miami who had never taken the Georgia Bar exam. Malone’s story was similar. Less than a month after Outlaw received his transfer notice, the agency’s assistant general counsel Arrington — in town to interview candidates for Snapp’s former post — pulled Malone aside. “I’m afraid I have some bad news for you,” her complaint alleges that Arrington told her. With that, he handed her a memo signed by the general counsel reassigning her to Milwaukee. She was told she risked termination if she turned down the assignment, according to her suit. When she turned down the transfer, she was informed she must resign if she “wished to take advantage of an early retirement,” according to a letter that Stewart signed. When she filed a formal complaint alleging age discrimination, the EEOC denied her claim. Like Outlaw, Malone eventually learned that her new supervisor in Milwaukee had never been notified of the transfer. Rather than move, Malone also retired. Despite the litigation that he and his former colleagues have initiated, Snapp says he still believes in the principles the EEOC was designed to uphold. “I’m a true believer in equal employment and to the mission of the commission,” he says. “I haven’t lost loyalty to that mission. But corrective action needs to be taken.”

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