Hillary Clinton Sued Over Age Discrimination

11/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the State Department are being sued by a diplomat who claims she was discriminated against because of her age.

Lawyers for Elizabeth Colton filed suit on Friday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that Clinton and the State Department violated her rights by enforcing a mandatory retirement age and denying her a job at the U.S. Embassy in Algeria.

Colton, 64, alleges in court documents that she was the top choice for the two-year post as political-economic counselor in Algiers and accepted the offer, which was later rescinded when officials realized she would reach the retirement age of 65 for foreign service officers after only 16 months on the job.

The suit also alleges that Colton was forced to take a less desirable position to finish out her career and that the decision to deny her the post in Algeria denied her constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

"Imagine if someone told Hillary Clinton she couldn't be secretary of state because she would turn 65 before her term is up," said Thomas Bundy III, one of Colton's attorneys. "We believe the State Department should stop this unlawful, discriminatory employment practice."

The suit notes that some long-serving foreign service officers can and do get five-year waivers on the retirement age and that several current U.S. diplomats, including high-profile special envoys Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell, are over 65.

The State Department declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday.