Two separate lawsuits allege age discrimination at Blue Origin

by Ana Lopez

Two separate lawsuits have been filed against Blue Origin for allegedly discriminatory hiring practices based on age, businessupdates.org has learned.

The first lawsuit was filed last summer by a former Blue Origin engineer who took part in company interviews and claims he was instructed by his supervisor to seek out younger candidates. The second complaint, filed in January, is filed by a 64-year-old prospective employee who repeatedly and unsuccessfully applied for jobs for which interviewers said he was qualified.

Blue Origin did not respond to businessupdates.org’s request for comment.

Cristian Bureriu, a former senior aerospace software engineer at Blue who was hired in 2018, said he was demoted after complaining to HR that his immediate supervisor instructed him to look for younger candidates — to only hire 20- and 30-year-olds. take – like “younger guys are more coachable.

His complaint further alleges that Blue “forced or laid off” about 20 employees in Bureriu’s department, virtually all of whom were over the age of 40. They were replaced by younger staff, the complaint says. Blue Origin fired Bureriu in May 2022, a move the lawsuit said was the result of continued harassment, retaliation and discrimination after Bureriu took medical leave. Bureriu declined to comment on this story.

In his complaint, David Rowan says he applied to 14 vacancies at Blue Origin over a period of a few years, none of which resulted in a job offer. When he was interviewed for the roles, his complaint alleges that interviewers asked leading questions to determine his age.

Rowan learned about Bureriu’s suit last October. Rowan’s allegations “present a compelling mosaic of circumstantial evidence supporting a finding of intentional age discrimination,” his attorney wrote in the complaint. The attorney, Kevin Jent, declined to comment on this story.

Age discrimination lawsuits are a huge challenge to win, Jacquelyn James, co-director of the Center for Aging and Work at Boston College, explained in an interview. “The Supreme Court has made sure that you have to be able to prove that age is almost the only reason you weren’t hired,” she said.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that handles discrimination complaints, the number of age discrimination complaints has declined over the past decade. In 2011, there were 23,465 age-related costs to the EEOC; in 2021 only 12,965. James speculated that this drop could be due to the cases being so hard to win.

While accepting a job at Blue Origin, Bureriu signed an arbitration agreement, which waived his right to litigate employment-related claims in court. Instead, under the terms of that agreement, his complaints will go to arbitration.

There is fierce competition for talent between aerospace companies, who must compete with big aerospace firsts and other tech companies for labor. According to the 2022 Aerospace and Defense Workforce Study, conducted by the Aerospace Industries Association and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, which surveyed more than 30 A&D companies (excluding Blue Origin or other newer entrants to the aerospace industry), respondents reported their concerns about talent attraction and labor shortages. 88% of respondents reported attending career fairs at universities and offering internships to expand their workforce.

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