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Texas dockworkers win age discrimination lawsuit

In the workplace, seniority should garner respect, not ridicule. But for eight Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, dockworkers, age made them targets for employment discrimination. Each man was 50 or older when fired from his job in 2007. Some of the dockworkers had been employed with the freight company for more than 20 years.

The company alleged the workers were terminated after a change in attendance rules made the men subject to firing for past infractions. But the company's supervisors were in the habit of calling the workers derogatory names based on their age. This inappropriate treatment led the employees to believe they had been terminated wrongfully, so they filed an age discrimination claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After the EEOC investigated the claim and found reasonable grounds that workplace discrimination had taken place, the agency proceeded to sue the freight company on behalf of the fired workers.

The EEOC found the freight company guilty of violating the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. The company agreed to a settlement in which it would pay the dockworkers $400,000, establish an equal employment training program for managers and supervisors and implement a policy against age discrimination.

Under the ADEA, employers may not discriminate against any person who is age 40 or older. Employers cannot harass workers because of their age if the treatment creates a hostile work environment, nor can employers fire a worker for being age 40 or above, either directly or indirectly.

For anyone fighting age-based workplace discrimination, filing a discrimination complaint with the EEOC is usually one of the first steps. If the EEOC decides not to pursue the case on behalf of the claimant, that individual can still proceed with suing their employer personally.

Source: gantdaily.com, "Fired dockworkers get $400,000 settlement in age discrimination lawsuit," May 14, 2012

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