Waco, TX based Central Freight Lines has agreed to pay eight former dockworkers $400,000 to settle an age discrimination lawsuit brought on their behalf by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The suit alleged that the employees were discriminated against while on the job, then fired and replaced with younger workers.
According to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, it is unlawful for an employer:
- To fail or refuse to hire and/or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his or her compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of such individual's age
- To limit, segregate or classify employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his or her status as an employee because of such individual's age
- To reduce the wage rate of any employee in order to comply with this chapter
According to the EEOC's claim, the eight workers represented in the suit were selected for termination by Central Freight Lines in August 2007 because of their age. The suit further alleges that Central Freight pretended that they were merely reducing their work force in order to terminate the employees, some of whom had been with the company for over 20 years. All of the men were 50 years of age or older.
Details of the allegations revealed that the men's supervisor regularly referred to them as "grandpas," "old farts" or "old bastards." That supervisor was put in charge of making a list of men to be terminated; the company even went so far as to change their disciplinary policies to make minor infractions formerly committed by the employees grounds for corrective action, thus making them legally eligible for termination. Once the men were forced from their positions, they were replaced with younger workers.
In addition to the $400,000 settlement, Central Freight will have to enforce a written policy on age discrimination, as well as train management and supervisory personnel at their Dallas and Fort Worth terminals on equal employment opportunities policies.
Robert A. Canino, Regional Attorney for the Dallas District office of the EEOC said, "Reductions in force are unfortunately not unusual in tough economic times, but a freight business should realize that unloading more experienced older dockworkers while pushing to hire younger ones is not the answer."