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Raytheon sued for age discrimination in hiring, favoring recent college grads

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A 67-year-old Virginia man sued Raytheon on Tuesday for age discrimination, claiming that the aerospace giant illegally favors recent college graduates over older workers in its hiring process.

The AARP Foundation, the charitable wing of the national advocacy group for older adults, filed the case in U.S. District Court on behalf of Mark Goldstein. The suit alleges that Goldstein applied to many positions at Raytheon since 2019, but was never offered an interview — “based on his age.” The AARP Foundation is seeking to make the lawsuit a class action on behalf of other possible plaintiffs.

The complaint says Raytheon — one of the country’s largest defense contractors with 185,000 employees worldwide — favors young people in its hiring process by using phrases in its jobs listings such as “recent college graduate” or “new graduate.” For some positions in software engineering, mechanical engineering, business and other fields, the lawsuit claims, the company also requires applicants to have a college degree and less than one or two years of work experience to “meet basic qualifications” — or to have graduated college within the past one or two years.

Raytheon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Goldstein, who had around 40 years of experience working in project management, cybersecurity, tech and other relevant areas, met all of the requirements for the positions he has applied for, except that he wasn’t a recent college graduate and he had more than one or two years of work experience, the complaint alleges.

Peter Romer-Friedman, a public interest lawyer representing Goldstein alongside the AARP Foundation, said that tens of thousands of older Americans “who have seen these ads and not applied because of that” could be eligible to join the class action.

Romer-Friedman added that this is the first of other similar class-action suits that his firm intends to file against employers alleging age discrimination in hiring practices.

“We’ve been clear that Raytheon is not the only big company doing this,” Romer-Friedman said. “We hope this lawsuit sends a strong message that it’s not okay for Raytheon to do this, and likewise it’s not okay for other companies, large or small, to exclude older workers through these kinds of ‘recent college graduate’ requirements.”

Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of age against some job applicants and employees who are 40 years or older.

Steve Schultz, Raytheon’s global head of talent acquisition, told CNBC in 2023 that new or recent college graduates — a growing demographic at the company — made up roughly a quarter of its recent hires.

The lawsuit follows a 2021 finding by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces civil rights in the workplace, that Raytheon’s practices of hiring recent college graduates violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. That finding came in response to a discrimination complaint that Goldstein filed against Raytheon with the EEOC in 2019.

Romer-Friedman said Raytheon slightly tweaked its job postings after the EEOC found evidence of discrimination. Instead of seeking applicants who had graduated within a specific date range, listings called for recent college graduates with less than one or two years of work experience.

“It’s the exact same thing with different language,” Romer-Friedman said. “Raytheon has been on notice about these practices for several years and has not effectively changed their practices.”

The complaint filed Tuesday also alleges that Raytheon’s hiring practices violated the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act. Job seekers whose rights were violated will form a national class of workers with claims under the state’s law, the suit’s lawyers said. Raytheon moved its corporate headquarters from Waltham, Mass., to Arlington, Va., in 2022.

The courts will decide whether other potential plaintiffs who might have sought jobs at Raytheon will be automatically included in the suit or will have to opt in.

William Rivera, senior vice president of litigation at the AARP Foundation, said many older workers face age discrimination in their job searches, especially at tech-related companies that place a premium on “youthful, energetic and agile” employees.

“Shutting off job [lots of] opportunities because of people’s age and experience really has an absolutely devastating effect for a lot of older workers trying to get back into the workforce,” Rivera said.

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