The University of Kansas Medical Center agreed to pay $144,000 to settle a retaliation lawsuit filed after an information technology manager complained his boss insisted millennials be hired for computer jobs, federal officials said Friday.


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed the legal action in U.S. District Court, said the health facility in Kansas City, Kan., would pay lost wages and liquidated damages to the whistleblower fired after reporting age discrimination.


In addition, the EEOC said, a three-year consent decree signed by a judge compelled KUMC as well as the University of Kansas to take steps to prevent discrimination or retaliation against management employees in the future.


"Workers who oppose discriminatory employment policies, decisions, and actions on the job should be praised, not punished," said Andrea Baran, the EEOC’s regional attorney in St. Louis.


Baran said KU and KUMC had taken positive steps to attempt to prevent age discrimination and retaliation against employees and job applicants who had the courage to report or oppose decisions which they believed to be discriminatory.


KUMC spokeswoman Kay Hawes said the consent decree approved by the court noted KUMC denied the allegations.


"KU Medical Center is committed to the inclusion of all members of our campus community, and we take very seriously our responsibility to prevent and eliminate discrimination," Hawes said. "The university also strives to foster an environment where our employees feel comfortable and are protected when speaking up and reporting complaints of discrimination."


The federal lawsuit filed in September said a KUMC administrator moved in 2014 to dismiss Jeffrey Thomas, associate director of customer services and supervisor of the IT help desk, after Thomas complained super­visors and managers were ordered to recruit and hire young people, particularly millennials.


Thomas alleged Michael Harmelink, associate vice chancellor for information resources and chief information officer at the medical center, instructed staff to "hire millennials and other younger individuals to fill vacant positions."


In 2014, Thomas also reported to university officials that Donna Longhofer, a qualified 60-year-old applicant for a computer programmer position, was rejected for that job at KUMC solely because of her age.


Harmelink responded by reorganizing the information resources department and eliminating Thomas’ position.


The EEOC said conduct of university administrators violated anti-retaliation provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions against individuals who engage in unlawful age discrimination against themselves or others.


EEOC turned to federal court after attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement with KUMC through a conciliation process.


The decree granted by U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Crabtree required KU to compensate Thomas. In addition, the university and KUMC agreed to implement stronger non-discrimination and non-retaliation policies and procedures.


"We are glad the university recognizes that employers cannot fire, demote, refuse to hire or take other negative actions against employees and job applicants who raise good-faith concerns about what they think is unlawful age discrimination," said Jack Vasquez, the EEOC’s district director in St. Louis.


The St. Louis office of the EEOC oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and a portion of Illinois.