Jury Verdict Results in $430,000 Award for Fired Older Workers
MADISON, Wis. - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that it received a favorable jury verdict in a lawsuit against the University of Wisconsin (UW) Press, a book publishing division of the Graduate School of UW-Madison, filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). As a result of the verdict, four former UW Press employees will share $430,427 comprised of back pay, front pay, and liquidated damages.
In its suit, EEOC charged, and the jury found, that Rosalie Robertson, then 50; Chuck Evenson, then 54; Mary Braun, then 46; and Joan Strasbaugh, then 47 the four oldest employees of UW Press were terminated from their employment because of their respective ages and replaced with younger workers in violation of the ADEA. The jury made an initial finding against UW Press on the issue of liability on May 8, 2001, when it returned a verdict of intentional age discrimination in regard to all four terminations. The verdict on damages was returned on Wednesday evening, May 9.
"Age discrimination is still a persistent problem in today's workplace," said EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro. "Too many employers still judge older workers based on false perceptions that they lack current skills, are adverse to training, or no longer have the level of energy and motivation of younger workers. Employers should be aware that making employment decisions based on such age-related myths and stereotypes runs afoul of the law."
During the trial, UW Press claimed that, despite their seniority, the four individuals were laid off for cost reasons and because of a lack of skills in computer technology as part of a reduction in force (RIF). However, EEOC argued that younger employees were hired into the same positions shortly after the alleged RIF, and that the four terminated workers were in fact ready, willing, and able to learn any required new skills to perform their jobs.
Chester V. Bailey, director of EEOC's Milwaukee District Office, which handled the suit, said: "Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his or her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment including, but not limited to, hiring and firing. Employers in Wisconsin and Minnesota must be mindful of their responsibility to judge employees and applicants based on their ability to do the job, rather than on non-job related factors such as age."
EEOC was represented in the case by trial attorneys Brian Tyndall and Barbara Henderson of the agency's Milwaukee office.
In Fiscal Year 2000, EEOC received 16,008 ADEA charge filings nationwide and obtained approximately $56 million in monetary benefits for victims of age discrimination through enforcement and litigation.
In addition to enforcing the ADEA, EEOC enforces Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination because of disability; the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits sex-based wage discrimination; sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991; and prohibitions against discrimination affecting persons with disabilities in the federal government. Coverage generally includes private employers with 15 or more employees as well as federal, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor organizations. Further information about the Commission is available on its Web site at www.eeoc.gov.
This page was last modified on May 11, 2001.
Return to Home Page