SVSU hit with age discrimination suit

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A former SVSU police sergeant is suing the university on claims that, because of his age, he was laid off without being offered another position.

Christopher T. Rupp, 56, was notified in September by Police Chief Leo Mioduszewski that his position as sergeant was being eliminated. His last day of work was in October 2017 after nearly 10 years on the force, the lawsuit filed by attorney Kevin J. Kelly states.

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 20 in Saginaw County Circuit Court, alleges SVSU’s actions constitute age discrimination in violation of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and seeks more than $25,000 in damages, the latter of which is a requirement to have the case filed in Circuit Court.

“We are aware of the lawsuit filed by Mr. Rupp,” said SVSU spokesman J.J. Boehm. “We maintain that SVSU does not discriminate, and we are confident that is what the facts will show in this case.”

Rupp began working as a patrolman for the SVSU police department in 2008 after serving 25 years with the Bay City Police Department.

In the complaint, Rupp cites a letter he wrote to both Mioduszewski and Officer Chad Lackowski, the president of the Police Officers Association of Michigan, on Sept. 19. Rupp references Article 19 of the patrolmen’s collective bargaining agreement, which Rupp claims entitles him to stay on the force by taking a demotion and making an officer with less seniority take the layoff, referred to as bumping rights.

A portion of Article 19 reads, “If two or more employees are relatively equal in qualifications, the most senior employee shall be retained, provided he/she has the minimum necessary qualifications to perform the work.” Rupp indicated that he had more seniority than at least four members of the SVSU police force, and that he was substantially older.

The complaint states a response written by Mioduszewski shortly after stated that the university disagreed with Rupp’s claims.

The complaint adds that on the following day, Sept. 22, SVSU posted a new position in the Police Department called a Police Clerk. Rupp then met with Human Resources Benefits Manager Jeanette O’Boyle. At the meeting, O’Boyle further suggested that Rupp had bumping rights under the collective bargaining agreement and agreed with his interpretation of the agreement, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also states that SVSU’s reasons behind the termination and refusal to permit Rupp to bump into a patrolman position are pretextual in nature. Those reasons were not based in fact, did not actually motivate the decision, and/or were too insignificant to warrant the action, the lawsuit says.

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