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DALLAS—Central Freight Lines Inc. has agreed to settle an age discrimination lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of eight former dockworkers for $400,000, the agency said.
The EEOC said last week that according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Dallas, the Waco, Texas-based firm discriminated against the eight workers, who all were at least 50 years old, by selecting them for termination in an August 2007 reduction in force because of their age.
The consolidated suit filed by EEOC and the private parties charged the workers were called names such as “grandpa,” “old farts” and more derogatory terms by their supervisor, who had been asked to prepare a list of the men to be terminated.
The EEOC said also the company changed its attendance and disciplinary policy so the men “were suddenly put on corrective action and eligible for termination under the new policy,” the agency said in a statement.
The company agreed to pay $400,000 to the claimants and to train management and supervisory personnel at the Central Freight Dallas and Fort Worth terminals on equal employment opportunity policies and procedures, according to the EEOC.
“Central Freight treated these experienced dockworkers like they were expendable. This case shows that EEOC will remain vigilant in our protection of older workers,” EEOC attorney Suzanne M. Anderson said in the statement.
Central Freight responded in a statement that it “has denied from the onset of this litigation that it discriminated” against the workers or violated any federal or state statute.
“These eight former employees were included in a reduction-in-force that was brought about by a legitimate, nondiscriminatory business need,” it said. “Also included in the reduction-in-force were five other individuals, all under the age of 40, thereby demonstrating Central Freight's lack of discriminatory motive.'
Referring to the EEOC not mentioning these other workers in its press release on the settlement, Central Freight said in its statement, “Given that this was an undisputed fact during the litigation, we cannot help but wonder whether the true motivation behind the press release was simply to attempt to paint Central Freight in a negative light.
“Further absent from the press release is the fact that the sole reason that Central Freight, the plaintiffs, and the EEOC settled this matter, and entered into the consent decree, was to avoid the expense of further litigation. This fact, as well as Central Freight's denial of discrimination, are explicitly contained in the consent decree, but were also conspicuously absent from the EEOC's press release. It is unfortunate that the EEOC chose to omit these crucial items in their press release.”
Many observers have said the EEOC's recently issued guidance on age discrimination policies goes beyond the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on the issue and will add a burden to employers.