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UMass target of ex-worker’s age bias suit

NORTHAMPTON — A former employee of the University of Massachusetts Amherst has filed a civil lawsuit against the school and others claiming he was retaliated against and wrongfully laid off, two months shy of 20 years of service.

The suit filed Thursday in Hampshire Superior Court claims that Samuel J. Welson of Northampton was laid off due to age bias and in retaliation for filing a complaint with state agencies against UMass for not paying a union-mandated prevailing wage for some of its contracted printing services.

The suit names the state, the entire UMass system, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and other university employees as defendants in addition to UMass Amherst.

A message left with the UMass Amherst news office seeking comment was not immediately returned.

According to the suit, Welson began working at UMass in 1991 and was promoted to senior manager of a department called Office 2 Office which handled printing, mail and other duties.

The suit claims that in 2010 Welson learned print work was being sent to off-campus vendors who were not paying the prevailing wage established by a collective bargaining agreement.

Welson then refused to send work to those vendors and filed a complaint with the state Department of Labor and the attorney general.

According to the suit, Welson estimates that over $250,000 was contracted out improperly.

The suit goes on to claim that managers in Welson’s department make disparaging remarks about “old-timers” on staff, referred to the “problems of an aging workforce,” and asked Welson to come up with a reason not to hire back another worker who was over 50, saying,” Wouldn’t we be better off getting somebody younger?”

Welson’s suit claims he was notified in May 2011 he would be laid off at the end of July 2011 and was informed the university could not provide a new, suitable position for him due to his lack of qualifications, including a bachelor’s degree. He also claims that UMass did not provide him any job options not requiring a bachelor’s degree.

Welson was 54 when he was laid off two months away from a 20-year pension. The suit claims “there was no business necessity for a termination 60 days shy” of that pension.

The suit seeks unspecified damages, interest and court costs.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.

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