Two Madison County men have filed a discrimination suit against the U.S. Army and supervisors at Blue Grass Army Depot near Richmond.
James A. Bilski of Richmond and Charles M. Herald of Berea filed suit in U.S. District Court in Lexington this week claiming age discrimination and retaliation by supervisors at the depot. The defendants named in the suit include Eric Fanning, secretary of the U.S. Army, and Col. Lee Hudson, commander of the depot. Mark Henry, public affairs officer for the depot, said Friday that personnel there had no comment.
Bilski and Herald worked as electronics mechanics at the depot, where they maintained and installed monitoring systems.
In 2014, Bilksi, then 54, did not receive a promotion to electronic security assessment officer because supervisors chose to hire a younger co-worker, the suit says. Herald, a co-worker of Bilski, overheard a conversation between two people who said the Army “wanted to go with the young guy because the other one (Bilski) was ‘close to retirement.’”
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When Bilski learned of this, he filed a discrimination complaint with the Army and later with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Herald was a witness in the complaint and in June 2014 submitted a statement about the conversation he’d overheard.
After filing complaints, Bilski and Herald “experienced significant and persistent retaliation in the form of reassignments, suspensions without pay, and criminal investigation,” the suit says. In November, Herald was notified that he was barred from the depot “until advised otherwise,” and he was escorted off the depot property.
The suit says the two men are currently suspended indefinitely without pay from their employment assignments.
Bilski claims the Army violated the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 by “failing to promote him while instead promoting a less-qualified, younger employee with less seniority and experience, and with poor disciplinary records.”
“The Department of the Army failed to take reasonable and necessary steps to eliminate age discrimination from the workplace and prevent it from occurring in the future,” the suits says.
Bilski and Herald also allege the Army retaliated against them through an indefinite suspension. They also say the Army began a criminal investigation against them in which they were accused of creating “defeat keys” to bypass an intrusion detection system.
Earlier this week Bilski and Herald were notified by the U.S. Department of Justice that there was not “sufficient evidence to prove criminal conduct beyond a reasonable doubt. As such, the criminal justice investigation has been closed,” and no presentation would be made to a grand jury, the suit says.
The suit seeks compensatory damages including lost wages, reinstatement and promotion, trial by jury and recovery of costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.