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Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2005

Lawrence call center prepared for nationwide inquiries

March 31, 2005

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Now that another 75 million older workers can have an easier time filing age-discrimination cases, a relative handful of other workers -- 36 of them -- in Lawrence soon could find their phones ringing.

The folks operating the National Contact Center for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission wouldn't be surprised to see more inquiries coming into their cubicles at Pearson Government Solutions in the East Hills Business Park.

And they'll be ready to answer questions, explain procedures and refer people to the commission's regional offices for possible filing of workplace discrimination cases.

"That's the whole nature of our game," said Mark Andrews, Pearson's site manager in Lawrence. "That's what we do. We really are the face of the EEOC to the nation. It's an important aspect of the service we provide for them.

Pearson operates the center as part of a $4.9 million contract with the commission.

Lynn Bruner, director for the commission's St. Louis District, which includes Kansas, said that she wouldn't be at all surprised to see more calls coming into the contact center. That's because the U.S. Supreme Court has added age discrimination to the list of categories under which so-called "disparate impact claims" of discrimination would be permitted under federal law.

Such cases have not been allowed in Kansas, she said, and the court's ruling means that her staffers reasonably could expect to move forward with cases involving Kansas workers who are at least 40 years old.

Her office filed two cases during the past year in Missouri.

"It's a very important ruling," Bruner said. "We will now be able to bring cases (in Kansas)."

The commission's National Contact Center may be reached at (800) 669-4000.

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