Former Assistant U.S. Attorney John Carver won an age-bias case against the U.S. Department of Justice this week, nine years after he...

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Former Assistant U.S. Attorney John Carver won an age-bias case against the U.S. Department of Justice this week, nine years after he filed the complaint.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) upheld a previous ruling that found Carver was rejected for a job in the department’s drug and fraud unit in 1996 because of his age, then 46.

The commission on Monday ordered that Carver get his job back with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Western Washington, and that the agency pay him back wages to 1996, a figure that hasn’t been determined.

Carver, now 55 and an attorney with the King County Prosecutor’s Office, said he’s relieved by the decision he hasn’t decided if he will return to the federal system.

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“They’ll have to offer me a job, and I’ll have to weigh all the factors.”

Carver filed his complaint in 1996 shortly after then-U.S. Attorney Kate Pflaumer instead selected a 33-year-old lawyer with less experience.

Pflaumer yesterday maintained that her only mistake was explaining to Carver over coffee why she didn’t give him the job, a conversation she says he twisted into evidence of bias.

“This gives a sting to eight years of public service,” Pflaumer said.

Pflaumer was named U.S. attorney for Western Washington by President Clinton in 1993. She served until 2001.

Pflaumer said Carver didn’t get the job because he seemed unenthusiastic about the position and blew the interview.

But Carver said that Pflaumer told him during private conversations that she wanted to build a “junior varsity” of lawyers who could replace the department’s veteran attorneys when they retired.

Those comments and others amounted to “a virtual list of common stereotypes of older workers,” Judge James Carroll, an administrative judge with the EEOC, wrote when he ruled in Carver’s favor in 2002.

The Justice Department appealed Carroll’s decision, and the case languished with the EEOC until Carver’s lawyer filed a request last month to speed things up.

The administrative decision directs the Justice Department to hold equal-opportunity training.

Seattle civil-rights attorney Jeffrey Needle said he wasn’t familiar with Carver’s case, but that complaints of age bias have been growing now that all baby boomers have passed 40, the age when they become a protected class.

“I’m litigating them now, and I’ll probably be seeing more and more of them,” Needle said.

Shirleen Holt: 206-464-8316 or sholt@seattletimes.com