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PRESS RELEASE
12-15-09

City of North Richland Hills to Pay $75,000 to Settle Age Discrimination Suit

EEOC Said Harassment by City Forced Out Older Worker  

DALLAS -- The City of North Richland Hills will pay $75,000 to a former worker and take remedial action to settle a lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the federal agency announced today.  The EEOC charged that the city subjected Robert Coffman, a former HVAC technician, to age-based harassment which resulted in his forced termination (constructive discharge).

According to the EEOC suit (Civil Action No. 4:08-cv-558-Y in the Northern District of Texas), Coffman was ridiculed with age-based taunts that he was too old to keep up, made too much money and was too old to do his job.  The EEOC also alleged that after suffering the abusive behavior for several months, Coffman reported the harassment to his supervisor and to the city's human resources department.  However, the EEOC found that not only did the city fail to take any corrective action, but the harassment increased to the point that Coffman was forced to resign. 

"The EEOC is pleased that this veteran worker is being compensated for the humiliating and embarrassing comments he was forced to endure day after day," said Trial Attorney Joel Clark of the agency's Dallas District Office.  "Age-based harassment, just like other forms of discriminatory workplace harassment, is against the law and should not be tolerated by employers."

The five-year consent decree resolving the suit was signed today by U.S. District Court Judge Terry Means.  In addition to the monetary settlement, the decree provides that the city will train all employees on equal employment opportunity policies and procedures, including age-based discrimination, and post an anti-discrimination notice.

"At times when our economy presents challenges to employment stability, employers should recognize the value of retaining experienced workers," said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert A. Canino.  "In addition to the legal ramifications for employers, allowing mistreatment of older workers can lead to the loss of productivity and hinder employee morale."

In July, the Commission held a public hearing on age discrimination and barriers to the employment of older workers. Additional information about the hearing can be found on the EEOC's web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/abouteeoc/meetings/7-15-09/index.html.

The ADEA prohibits employment discrimination based on age against employees and applicants 40 years of age and older.  The EEOC filed the suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.