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Lawsuits & Litigation

Jury Rules in Favor of Mesa County in Age Discrimination Lawsuit

— December 3, 2021

A jury in Mesa County recently ruled that a woman who sued the county over claims of age discrimination failed to prove she was discriminated against.

Earlier this week, a jury in Mesa County ruled that a former county employee who filed a federal civil lawsuit against the county over age discrimination allegations “failed to show any actual discrimination.” The suit was originally filed by Debra Bouricius, a former county Information Technology Department worker. Unfortunately for her, the jury “unanimously ruled that she did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that her claims she was wrongly fired in 2016 by then County Administrator Frank Whidden were supported by the facts.

Image of the EEOC seal
Seal of the EEOC; image courtesy of U.S. Government via Wikimedia Commons,

According to the lawsuit, Bouricius worked for the county for 26 years. She alleged she had been “the target of age discrimination, along with five other workers in the IT department who also were laid off.” It’s important to note that at the same time, Mesa County was looking at a $1.4 million deficit and was looking for ways to trim the budget, including the use of layoffs. Despite this, Bouricius believed she was targeted because “she and the five others all were longtime county workers in their 40s and 50s, claiming that less experienced workers in their 20s and 30s were spared from layoffs.” She was 57-years-old when she was laid off. 

The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, stated:

“Mesa County chose to terminate the oldest person with each job title affected by the IT Department layoff…Though Mesa County’s written policies require it to base layoff termination decisions upon the job performance and special skills of individual employees, Mesa County failed to consider any objective performance criteria in selecting employees to be laid off from the IT Department…Mesa County has not articulated any objective performance criteria that is used to select employees to be fired.”

As part of the lawsuit, Bouricius cited two settlements the county had reached with “two other IT workers who were involved in the same layoff.” Those two former workers were “paid settlements of $62,500 each after they filed complaints with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.” The panel agreed in December 2017 that the two former workers had “probable cause to proceed with their complaints.” While Bouricius received a similar ruling, she chose to sue the county instead. The other two didn’t go through with legal action.

When commenting on the jury verdict, Commissioner Scott McInnis said it “proves that there is no discrimination going on in the county.” He added:

“The most important point is, we don’t discriminate, period…That principle justified our vigorous defense in this case. We did not discriminate and we don’t discriminate. We’ve been very careful about that…We took the claim seriously, but when we think we’re right, we defend against it vigorously…There was a reach-out (from the plaintiff’s attorney) to see if we would settle, and we said, ‘No. You’re wrong and you know you’re wrong. We’ll see you in court.’”


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