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Settlement conference ordered first in age discrimination case against ASG

A federal judge in Honolulu has ordered a settlement conference, using a mediation format, set for next year in the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) age discrimination lawsuit against the American Samoa Government, while at the same time scheduling a jury trial for 15 months from now.

The EEOC’s suit was filed Aug. 30 against ASG and its Department of Human Resources, alleging employment discrimination action under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). DHR Chief of Personnel Eseneiaso J. Liu was transfered to the position of Chief of Human Capital and Strategic Planning Division, prompting the lawsuit. ASG has denied the allegations.

Last Friday U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard L. Puglisi ordered that all parties and their attorneys appear on May 22, 2012 for a settlement conference utilizing a mediation format, and for all parties to come prepared.

“Experience teaches that settlement conferences are often unproductive unless the parties have exchanged demands and offers before the conference and made a serious effort to settle the case on their own,” said Puglisi, in his five page order.

Accordingly, before arriving at the settlement conference, “the parties are to negotiate and make a good faith effort to settle the case without the involvement of the Court. Specific proposals and counter proposals shall be made,” Puglisi ordered.

“If settlement is not achieved before the settlement conference, the parties shall be prepared to engage in further negotiation at the conference,” he said, adding each party shall provide a concise statement of the evidence the party expects to produce at trial at least seven days before the conference. The statements shall outline the settlement negotiations to date.

He explained that the purpose of the conference is to facilitate settlement of this case, if that is appropriate. Additionally, the conference will be conducted in such a manner as not to prejudice any party in the event settlement is not reached.

At the settlement conference, the parties, by counsel, shall give a brief (5 minute) presentation outlining the factual and legal highlights of their case. Then separate, confidential caucuses will be held with each party and the party’s representative(s).

Each party has been ordered to deliver to the presiding judge a confidential settlement conference statement by May 15, 2012.

Court records state that, based on EEOC’s request and in agreement by both parties following a hearing last Thursday, the jury trial in this case is set for Feb. 12, 2013, with pre trial conference on Jan. 3, 2013. The court has also set specific dates next year for motions and counter motions to be filed.

EEOC, in its lawsuit, seeks back wages, liquidated damages, prejudgment interest, and injunctive relief on behalf of  Liu and similarly situated individuals, as well as on behalf of the public interest.

EEOC alleges the defendants engaged in unlawful employment practices on the basis of age by subjecting Liu and a class of other similarly situated individuals to unfavorable working conditions by pursuing policies and practices designed to purge older employees from the work force.