INDIANAPOLIS -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced a $7.1 million settlement of a class action lawsuit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) against Thomson Consumer Electronics, Inc. and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Union Local Nos. 1424 and 1048 (IBEW). The settlement will benefit hundreds of older Thomson employees whose jobs were moved to Mexico when the company closed its Bloomington plant and partially closed its Indianapolis facility in 1998.
EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro said, "This settlement will have national implications, making it clear that individuals cannot be disadvantaged by employers simply because they happen to be older than their fellow workers or job seekers. It also shows that the Commission's joint investigative-legal approach to enforcing our civil rights laws works." Ms. Castro applauded Thomson's "willingness to settle this matter without resort to lengthy and costly litigation."
Commission officials said today at a press conference at EEOC's district office here that, under terms of the agreement, a class of over 800 former Thomson employees will share $7.1 million. The class is comprised of employees age 55 and older who received no severance payments and employees under 55 who received less severance payments than amounts received by younger workers with the same years of service. The agreement is contained in a Consent Decree entered today by Judge Tinder of the United States District Court in Indianapolis.
The settlement resolves the lawsuit filed by EEOC against Thomson and the IBEW on June 15, 1999, on behalf of former employee Sharon Hardwick and other former employees who had filed age discrimination charges with the agency, as well as other employees who were identified by the EEOC in the investigation it conducted prior to filing the suit.
Attempts by EEOC to settle the dispute with defendants before pursuing litigation were unsuccessful. The suit alleged that Thomson and IBEW violated the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, a provision of the ADEA, by the implementation of the Plant Closing Agreement ratified in June 1997. The company's decision to move jobs to Mexico resulted in the closing of the Bloomington plant and partial closing of the Indianapolis facility in 1998. The Plant Closing Agreement discriminated against its oldest employees, affording them the least benefits in their severance packages due to their age. The ADEA prohibits discrimination against workers age 40 and older.
Speaking at the press conference, Commissioner Paul Steven Miller said, "This is an important victory in the battle against age discrimination. The settlement sends a clear message that paying older workers smaller severance awards based upon their age is discriminatory and unlawful. The Commission will continue to vigorously enforce the anti-discrimination laws to prevent and remedy unlawful workplace bias."
EEOC General Counsel Designate C. Gregory Stewart said at the press conference: "This case is the direct result of the EEOC's commitment to the development of more impact litigation and larger class actions; the agency will continue to focus on these kinds of cases." He added that age bias issues, particularly those involving severance benefits, "have been identified by the agency as a strategic litigation priority."
Class members may contact the EEOC's Indianapolis office at (317) 226-7203.
In addition to enforcing the ADEA, the EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin; the Equal Pay Act; prohibitions against discrimination affecting individuals with disabilities in the federal sector; sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991; and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments.
Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.
This page was last modified on August 18, 1999.
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