Fired exec charges firm tracked job applicants' private lives

A former senior executive of a pharmaceutical research firm is suing the company, claiming he was fired for taking a stand against its alleged practice of scrutinizing intimate details of job applicants' personal lives.

Joseph Brennan served as chief information officer for Fort Washington, Pa.-based Research Pharmaceutical Services Inc. from June 2010 until January 2012, when he was allegedly fired for raising objections to RPS' use of an applicant tracking system that collected and analyzed details of potential employees' sexual orientation, religion and political views.

Mr. Brennan is suing RPS in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for wrongful and retaliatory employment practices under federal and state laws.

According to documents filed with the court Wednesday, Mr. Brennan claims that he was alerted to the tracking systems operations in December 2011 by PricewaterhouseCoopers L.L.C., whom RPS had hired to provide an audit of the company's privacy practices during its certification process under the U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbor Framework.

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Brennan claims he discussed his opposition to its use with RPS' chief operations officer, Harris Koffer, and its vice president of recruiting, Joseph Arcangelo.

During that discussion, Mr. Brennan alleges that Mr. Arcangelo told him that the tracking system allowed the company “to place employees in positions in which they would be most compatible.” He also claims that Mr. Koffer warned him not to divulge information about the tracking system to regulators.

Several weeks after Mr. Brennan made his objections about the tracking system known, RPS fired him, citing his engagement in and nondisclosure of unspecified “business affairs outside of his employment” with the company, Mr. Brennan's suit alleges.

In response, Mr. Brennan claims in his lawsuit that several of his former co-workers were permitted to conduct similar outside activities without being fired. He asserts that his termination was a direct result of his opposition to the use of applicants' political and religious backgrounds to guide hiring and placement decisions, a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act.

Mr. Brennan's case was reviewed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued him a notice of Right to Sue on March 29, 2013.

Mr. Brennan is seeking compensation for lost wages and benefits, as well as punitive damages.

RPS did not return a call seeking comment on the case.

"Fired exec charges firm tracked job applicants' private lives" originally appeared in Business Insurance



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