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DSW to pay $900K to settle case of age bias in layoffs

DSW to pay $900K to settle case of age bias in layoffs

DSW Inc., formerly known as Designer Shoe Warehouse, has agreed to pay $900,000 to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission age discrimination lawsuit in which it was charged with firing employees over the age of 40 years old during a reduction in force, the agency said Monday.

The Columbus, Ohio-based retailer denied the charges in a statement, and said it settled the case to reduce litigation expenses.

The EEOC said DSW had violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and discriminated against seven former management employees in its Midwest region, and a class of former employees, by terminating older employees because of their age, and retaliating against certain employees who had opposed the orders to discriminate. The EEOC said its complaint covered DSW field personnel in its Midwest region as well as corporate home office employees.

The EEOC said its lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Sept. 15, and DSW decided to immediately negotiate the settlement. The consent decree settling the case was filed with the court Friday.

In addition to providing $900,000 in monetary relief to the alleged victims, the settlement requires DSW to report to the EEOC for the next three years all employee complaints of age discrimination arising out of the regions covered by the decree, the agency said.

The company is also required to train all its employees in these locations on the prevention and eradication of age discrimination and revise its antidiscrimination policy, the EEOC said.

John Hendrickson, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago, said in a statement, “We’re pleased that DSW worked to resolve this suit so quickly, without the need to go through expensive and time-consuming litigation.

“Instead, DSW chose to focus on making changes in its workplace and compensating victims. As a result, the day when those put out of work are compensated and the day when DSW is able to again focus 100% on its business will be here sooner rather than later.”

DSW said in an emailed statement, “DSW unequivocally denies the claims made by the EEOC. The EEOC’s allegations focus on employee separations during 2008 and 2009. Those difficult decisions were driven by economic volatility and were in no way influenced by the age of associates. Our decision to settle this case mitigates the costs associated with a lengthy legal proceeding and is in the best interest of our associates and shareholders.

“Additionally, the company is directing any unclaimed benefits from the settlement to a selected non-profit organization that provides job placement and training services to the local community [of Chicago].”

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