‘Apprentice’ Reject Accuses Trump of Age Bias in Hiring

January 10, 2007

Richard J. Hewett never heard “You’re fired!” — but he’s suing Donald Trump anyway.

The rejected applicant for NBC’s “The Apprentice” is suing the real estate mogul claiming he was turned away because of age discrimination.

Hewett was 49 when he was rejected in July 2005, and claims in his lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Boston that only two of the finalists covering six seasons has been over 40. He alleges Trump and the show’s producers are in violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

“People watching it get the impression that if you want to work for a big organization like the Trump Organization you have to be young,” Hewett told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday. He’s seeking unspecified damages.

“The Apprentice” pits entrepreneurial-minded people against each other, with Trump firing contestants over a period of weeks until one is “hired” into a high-paying job in one of Trump’s companies.

Hewett, who grew up in Lawrence and lives in Hampstead, N.H., is employed as a technology manager for a commercial real estate company. He would not reveal the name of the company. His lawsuit named Trump, the Trump Organization Inc., Trump Productions, producer Mark Burnett, Mark Burnett Productions, and three affiliated California companies. NBC is not named as a defendant.

Trump, in statement released by his spokesman, disputed Hewett’s claims.

“We have had very few people over a certain age apply to be on the show,” said Trump, the show’s executive director. “If they did and we liked them, we would love to cast them on the show.”

Trump spokesman Jim Dowd said a “minuscule percentage” of the more than 1 million applicants has been over 40. The finalists have ranged in age from 21 to 41, he said. Dowd forwarded a June 2005 news released in which Trump, on a recruiting trip, states: “I’d like to encourage all age groups to apply including veteran business men and women along with hungry young entrepreneurs.”

A representative of Burnett and his company did not immediately return a call.

Hewett claimed in his lawsuit — which he wrote and filed without a lawyer — that his qualifications include graduating magna cum laude from New Hampshire College. He has “many years of experience maintaining large commercial properties, with particular expertise managing the electrical, HVAC and informational technology departments,” he states.

Hewett was among a crowd of applicants invited by the show’s producers to a Natick conference center in July 2005. He participated in a group debate, which was videotaped, but was not called back, he said. There was no rejection letter or phone call. He said he the show’s application requires that candidates submit their age.

Three weeks later, Hewett filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which screens complaints. The commission issued a “right to sue” notice in October, Hewett said.

“The outcome I’m looking for would be to see a recognition on their part that it’s in everyone’s interest to expand the diversity of the candidates on the show,” he said.

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