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Denver high school coach claims employment discrimination

It is against federal law to fire, discipline or discriminate against an employee for taking advantage of health or other job benefits to which the employee is entitled. But a Colorado high school coach who twice won the Colorado State High School Coach of the Year award says he was fired in April 2010 not only because he used his health insurance benefits, but also because of his age. Recently, the coach filed a lawsuit in Denver federal court, saying that the owners of the private high school where he worked violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

In April 2010, the coach underwent surgery for a torn rotator cuff and used his health insurance benefits. But the newly appointed head of the school had apparently told staff members to use their health insurance benefits only for emergencies. The idea was to cut costs for the school. But the surgery, says the lawsuit, was scheduled before the head of the school made his request.

Following his surgery, the coach, who had worked at the school for 14 years, said he was called into his employer's office and told that his annual contract would not be renewed for the 2011 school year. The head of the school apparently began the meeting by asking the coach about his injury and the status of his recovery. The coach's employer went on to say that he had a "new vision" regarding the school but didn't provide any more details. However, the 48-year-old coach is convinced that the new vision was to terminate the employment of people over the age of 40, and hire younger staff. That spring, 24 employees were fired at the high school, twenty of whom were over the age of 40. They were all replaced with younger employees.

Other private sector employees who believe they have been discriminated against because of disability, age, race, gender, religion or national origin have rights and protections under federal and Colorado laws. Before filing a lawsuit against their employers, workers who have been discriminated against must first report their claims to the Equal Opportunity Commission or the Colorado Civil Rights Division. Workers will also want to consult with a sympathetic Colorado attorney who is experienced in employment law and who can outline all of the available options.

Source: thedenverchannel.com, "Fired Basketball Coach Sues Mullen For Discrimination," Alan Gathright, Jan. 12, 2012

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