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Hillsborough pilot wins $36,000 age discrimination suit

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

A crop-duster who accused Hillsborough County of refusing to hire him because of his age has won a jury verdict of $36,000 in back pay.

John Van Voorhis was 56 in 2002 when he applied for a pilot’s position with the Hillsborough County Public Works Department’s mosquito control section. He had more flying experience than any other applicant and was prepared to accept the job at the low end of the salary range. Van Voorhis said the county relaxed its experience criteria to hire a 40-year-old female pilot who needed additional training before she could fly alone.

Van Voorhis claimed the hiring manager said he didn’t want “an old man pilot.” When he sued for age discrimination, a trial court tossed out his case. But the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals sent it back for a new trial.

The county claimed it relaxed the job requirements to attract more applicants, and said Van Voorhis failed to submit the necessary paperwork to be considered under the new criteria. Van Voorhis was never notified of the changes, however. The jury didn’t buy the county’s explanation of what happened, and this time Van Voorhis won.

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