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Federal agency accuses American Samoa of age bias

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The government of American Samoa was accused of discriminating against older workers, according to a lawsuit filed on Tuesday by a federal agency.

The civil rights complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Hawaii by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The commission accuses American Samoa officials of initiating a campaign in the U.S. territory to remove older employees from the government workforce in order to open positions for younger job applicants.

Employees over the age of 50 were placed in undesirable positions under a plan that was first executed in 2009, the commission said.

The lawsuit was filed by attorneys with the commission's Los Angeles office, which has jurisdiction over the U.S. territory of American Samoa located in the South Pacific Ocean, about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii.

"The governments of U.S. territories should act as model employers and prevent civil rights violations," Anna Park, regional attorney for the commission's Los Angeles office, said in a statement.

It was unclear from the civil rights complaint how many older workers may have been discriminated against by the government of American Samoa.

A representative from the government of American Samoa could not be reached for comment.

The territory has a population of about 67,000 people.

In its lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission seeks to block the government of American Samoa from discriminating against workers on the basis of age and to make back wages be paid to affected employees.

The commission said this is the first lawsuit it has ever brought against the government of American Samoa.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Peter Bohan)

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