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Jury to hear Allstate age-discrimination suit


ST. LOUIS--A jury will decide whether Allstate Insurance Co.'s yearlong moratorium on rehiring its former sales agents disproportionately affected workers 40 years and older, a federal judge has ruled.

In granting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's motion for summary judgment, Judge E. Richard Webber of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis ruled there was sufficient evidence that Allstate's policy had a disparate impact on agents 40 years and older, the EEOC said in a statement.

The litigation stems from the insurer's efforts in 2000 to convert its 15,000-member agent workforce to independent contractors from regular employees.

The EEOC charged in a lawsuit that Northbrook, Ill.-based Allstate terminated its sales agents, offered to make them independent contractors and refused to rehire them in other positions as employees for one year. Because more than 90% of the agents were at least 40 years old, the EEOC alleges, the rehire policy violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Allstate argued that the court should dismiss the case without trial because its rehire policy had no disparate impact and was based on a reasonable factor other than age, according to the EEOC.

Calls to Allstate seeking comment were not immediately returned.