City officials this month denied allegations contained in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former public works employee.

The employee, Dale Wagner, 61, sued the city in September for alleged age discrimination and retaliation, claiming that he was forced to retire after health problems caused work restrictions for him, according to his lawsuit.

Wagner, who said he worked for the city for more than 30 years as a public works inspector, accused the city of having a pattern of discriminating against employees over 40 years old.

Wagner said he became “seriously ill” in August 2011 with back pain that was too severe for him to work a full day. He had surgery and went on medical leave a month later, after which he developed an infection which elongated his recovery time, the lawsuit stated.

Wagner wrote that he intended to go back to work as soon as possible, but his doctor placed work restrictions on him, at which point the city gave him the option to retire early in October of this year because they allegedly could not accommodate his restrictions.

Had Wagner not required time off for his disability, “he would have retained his job for a substantially longer time and obtained benefits that other employees” received, the lawsuit stated.

Wagner added that city officials “shunned him in daily activities, refused to involve him in various projects, and took other actions…to get him to retire from his job because of his age.”

He claimed he was denied additional computer classes beyond an initial course he took, and accused his supervisor of “‘phasing out’ older employees and hiring younger, computer-literate people, rather than train the older employees.”

According to his lawsuit, city officials “discharged older employees with greater frequency than younger employees, hired fewer employees who were older than 40, and gave better jobs and benefits to younger employees.”

Wagner also claimed he was retaliated against for filing a discrimination complaint against the city with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

In a response to the lawsuit filed by the city, Burbank attorneys denied every allegation, specifically that Wagner was “injured or damaged in any way.”

City officials added that Burbank follows workplace policies designed to prevent harassment, discrimination and retaliation, and said Wagner “failed to report or complain about the alleged unlawful conduct” despite knowledge of the procedures, according to court records.

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Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.


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