May 11, 2012
Central Freight Lines will pay $400,000 to eight former dockworkers to settle an age discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Central Freight Lines discriminated against Ricky Curry, John Bean, Paul Elwell, Richard Harris, James Thurmond, Keith Vessels, Purvis Carter and Reynaldo Tijerina by selecting them for termination because of their age in August 2007. The EEOC charged that the company used a reduction-in-force as a ruse to fire eight dockworkers, some of whom had worked at the company for 20 or more years and were approximately 50 years old and older.The suit alleged that workers were called names such as "grandpa," "old farts" and "old bastards" by their supervisor, who also had been tasked with preparing a list of the men to be terminated. According to the EEOC, the company also changed its attendance and disciplinary policy so that the men, who had not had more than a few disciplinary write-ups, were suddenly put on corrective action and eligible for termination under the new policy.The company then replaced the older employees with younger hires.Discriminating against an individual because of his or her age violates The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. On the first day of a scheduled 88-day trial, the attorneys for the parties reached agreement to settle the case by Consent Decree filed with the Court and signed by U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade on May 9, 2012.In the Consent Decree, the company agreed to pay $400,000 to the claimants and to train management and supervisory personnel at the Central Freight Dallas and Ft. Worth terminals on equal employment opportunity policies and procedures. The company will also commit to enforce a written policy against age discrimination."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," says Robert A. Canino, Regional Attorney for the EEOC's Dallas District Office.