EEOC ANNOUNCES $800,000 SETTLEMENT OF AGE DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a settlement of an age discrimination lawsuit against BNSF Railway Company brought on behalf of 137 present and former employees who were allegedly denied benefits under exit incentive programs offered by the company because they were eligible to retire.

Allegations:
The EEOC filed a lawsuit against BNSF in U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas under the Age Discrimination Employment Act. The lawsuit alleged that between 2002 and 2005, BNSF attempted to reduce its clerical workforce by offering exit incentive plans to clerical employees, but excluded any employee who was eligible for retirement. The EEOC argued that thirty-five employees over the age of 60 were denied the opportunity to participate in the exit incentive plans because they were eligible to retire and receive federal Railroad Retirement benefits. The EEOC also alleged that many older workers were forced to bump into less desirable jobs when their clerical jobs were abolished, and some retired as a result.

[The union was dismissed as a party from the case when it and the company agreed to remove a provision from the labor contract that allegedly discriminated against older workers by eliminating their “protected” status, which afforded them certain benefits when they became eligible to retire and reached age 70.]

Consent Decree:
The consent decree, which has been submitted for approval to U.S. District Judge Julie A. Robinson, provides that BNSF has agreed to pay a total of $800,000 to be distributed among the 137 affected employees. The company also agreed that any retirement incentive programs offered in the future will comply with ADEA. BNSF denied that its retirement incentive program discriminated against any employee on the basis of age.

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