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Suit accuses Melville insurance brokerage of age bias

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing a Melville-based health insurance brokerage for alleged age discrimination, claiming managers made profane, derogatory, age-related comments and fired three employees because of their age.

The EEOC filed the lawsuit Thursday in federal court in Central Islip after twice offering PJP Health Agency Inc. a chance to settle the charges, said Sunu Chandy, senior trial attorney for the EEOC. The federal agency filed as the plaintiff, which occurs in a small number of cases, but Chandy described this particular case as "egregious."

"If you have someone making actual comments referring to age like, 'If I had my own way older people wouldn't work in administration,' it's crystal-clear that's the motivation," Chandy said.

Philip Teseo Sr., owner of PJP Health, referred questions to an official with the company as well as the company's attorney, Richard Milman of Lake Success. Neither returned requests for comment.

Doreen Moore, James Massimino and Gregory Winfield were 45, 57 and 61, respectively, and Long Island residents at the time the company ended their employment, the EEOC said. PJP Health, which also has offices in Lake Success and Garden City, twice passed over Moore for promotion, choosing instead two women in their 20s with less experience, the lawsuit alleges.

The first time, Moore, who worked in the Melville administrative unit, had her insurance sales license and at least 15 more years of experience than the woman promoted over her. In the second instance, the employee selected instead of Moore had no experience in the insurance field and only had experience as a waitress and a secretary, the suit said.

Moore's supervisors also made derogatory comments in her presence, such as, "Get it together you ---- old people," and, "You need more make-up because of your wrinkles," the lawsuit said. Moore was fired about a month after filing an internal complaint, according to the suit.

The company's operations manager often made age-based comments to Massimino, who was the Lake Success office manager, such as, "Look at that old ----," the lawsuit said. Joseph Teseo, one of Philip Teseo's two sons managing the company, also repeatedly referred to Massimino using age-based profanity, the agency said.

The operations manager made offensive age-based remarks about Winfield as well, saying that he "was getting too old to do his job," the lawsuit alleges.

Both Massimino and Winfield were fired and replaced by employees in their early 30s, the agency said.

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