EEOC Files Age Discrimination Suit Against AT&T

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed an age discrimination lawsuit against telecommunications giant AT&T Inc. and a number of its subsidiaries, the agency announced Aug. 20. EEOC charged that AT&T discriminated against a class of retired AT&T workers by denying them the ability for reemployment solely because they retired under early retirement plans including the Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program (VRIP), the Enhanced Pension and Retirement Program (EPR), or other retirement plan. The effect of this denial of reemployment results in a disproportionate number of older workers not having the same opportunity to apply for reemployment, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the agency said.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Case No. 09 Civ 7323), John Yates, who filed the discrimination charge with EEOC, and a class of other retired AT&T workers, are denied reemployment because they had participated in the VRIP, EPR, or other retirement program. Yates and all other retirees who are age 40 or older are protected by law from discrimination because of their age. The result of AT&T’s policy is to exclude this class of older workers because of their age from being reemployed by AT&T regardless of their qualifications. This violation has been ongoing since at least Oct. 1, 2006, EEOC said.

“We’ve been taking a new and hard look at age discrimination recently, and we’re intent on enforcing the ADEA strategically and vigorously,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “This particular case highlights the Commission’s commitment to combating age-based disparate impact discrimination.”

According to company information, Dallas-based AT&T is the largest telecommunications company in the world by revenue, with more than $124 billion in 2008.

In July of this year, EEOC held a public hearing on recent developments in age discrimination, including the effect on older workers of widespread layoffs, threats to employee benefits, and controversial recent court decisions. The Commission also issued a technical assistance document on waivers of discrimination claims as part of severance agreements. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov/press/7-15-09.html and www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/qanda_severance-agreements.html.

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