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Update: EOC lawsuit against ASG could have been avoided says Le'i

“A lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission against the American Samoa Government is an unfortunate situation, which could’ve been avoided,” said Human Resources Director Le’i Sonny Thompson.


The American Samoa Government has until March 19, 2013 to pay $7,500 to Deputy Director of Human Resources, Eseneiaso Liu and $5,000 to former government employee Manuia Lacambra. (See story for details in yesterday's edition)


This is part of the settlement between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and ASG, as a result of a lawsuit filed by Liu, Lacambra and other government employees alleging age discrimination. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in Hawaii in August, 2011.  


Le’i said this case is a reminder to government authorities, private entity leaders and managers,. and throughout the rank and file how costly these types of violations can be. 


“My advice as Director of Human Resources is, follow the law and do the right thing, and when in doubt, ask before you make a decision — it’s simple as that”.


He said the American Samoa Government workforce must be informed and reminded about the American Samoa Code Annotated (ASCA) Title 7.0204 and American Samoa Administrative Code (ASAC) Chapter 11, Equal Opportunity – Affirmative Action Sections 4.1101 through 4.1108.


 “It is the policy of the ASG to provide and promote equal opportunity in employment  to people without discrimination because of race, creed, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, handicaps, marital status, political affiliation, or other non-merit consideration.”


He explained that the DHR and its staff is committed to ensure that they are in compliance with the letter of the law relative to Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO). 


In doing so they have appointed Kereti Matautia as ASG’s EEO Officer and although ASAC Chapter 11, Section 4.1104 created and authorized the functions, responsibilities, and supervision criteria under the Director of Human Resources, the duties and manner in which the ASG EEO Officer carries out his tasks, is very much independent. 


He stated that by doing this, it will eliminate any and all perception or appearance of impropriety or interference with the intent of the law.   


Samoa News inquired as to when DHR will begin their “required” training. Le’i answered that they are required to provide three trainings to employees covering the Policy and Federal Law regarding Equal Employment Opportunity, including employment discrimination on the basis of age, with the first training to be completed by June 2014.


“All training shall be conducted through an EEO Officer designated by DHR and I plan to offer the same training to all government authorities and the private sector. “The more people we cover, the better,” said Le’i.


Former Gov. Togiola Tulafono in 2009 publicly noted that he was encouraging the territory’s top-level career service employees to take up retirement or move to the private sector and later that same year then Human Resources Director Evelyn Vaitautolu Langford conducted an employee meeting in which she communicated to the attendees that employees who were fifty or older should retire to make room for the younger generation. Langford later removed Liu and Lacambra from their positions, an action which led to the age discrimination lawsuit being filed against ASG.