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Dallas industrial supply firm settles age bias in hiring suit for $210K


A Dallas-based industrial supply company has agreed to pay $210,000 to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit in which it was charged with telling an in-house recruiter to consider job candidates' ages.

An attorney for the company, HiLine Electric Co., said the firm settled the litigation because of its expense and it “vigorously denies” the charges of age discrimination.

The agency said Monday in its statement that the internal recruiter at HiLine reported to it that company executives provided her with a form with a list of bulleted criteria and consideration for job candidates that included a printed text box, referred to as the “HiLine Box,” listing an age-based hiring consideration.

The EEOC charged that the age criteria resulted in the failure to select applicants who were over 50 and who otherwise appeared to be qualified for the position. Eight applicants who were more than 50 years old when they unsuccessfully sought employment at the company as territory managers were identified as having been affected by the company's practice, said the EEOC, which charged HiLine with violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act with its practice.

In addition to the monetary damages, under terms of the settlement HiLine agreed it will not provide any lists of criteria in which chronological age is a consideration for hiring or promotion, among other provisions.

“Avoiding cookie-cutter workforces based on an age limit is something we hope all employers will guard against,” said EEOC supervisory trial attorney Suzanne Anderson in the statement. “Recruitment strategies should leave out age-based prerequisites, or preferences that potentially diminish the value of experience.”

The company’s attorney, Robert H. Walker, a member of law firm Wells, Marble & Hurst P.L.L.C. in Ridgeland, Mississippi, said the settlement clearly “resolved a very long piece of litigation and a very expensive piece of litigation.”

Mr. Walker said the EEOC filed this case in 2009 based on a 2006 investigation having to do with a practice that allegedly occurred in 2006. Initially, it was to be a class action suit, which was whittled down in the course of the litigation to a lawsuit involving 22, then 15 and finally eight claimants.

A trial involving the remaining eight would have been expensive he said. “It was a matter brought entirely by the EEOC,” he said. None of the claimants had filed litigation, or a complaint with the EEOC, he said.

Last month, Columbus, Ohio-based DSW Inc., formerly known as Designer Shoe Warehouse, agreed to pay $900,000 to settle an EEOC age discrimination lawsuit in which it was charged with firing employees over the age of 40 years old during a reduction in force.

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