Today, we announce the settlement of a lawsuit that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed against Republic Services, Inc., Republic Silver State Disposal, Inc., and referring collectively to as ‘Republic’.
On Sept. 30, 2004, the EEOC brought the lawsuit on behalf of a class of individuals who were discriminated against due to their age.
EEOC represented claimants who held predominantly three general categories of jobs: foremen/supervisors, drivers/trash collectors, and administrative support staff.
EEOC alleged that Republic engaged in a systemic means of terminating its older workers under the auspice of a reduction in force (RIF).
In January 2003, Republic implemented a head count reduction, firing on one day, a large group of older workers, targeting foremen, supervisors, and administrative support staff.
Every one of the employees terminated that day was over 40, with an average age of 55.
Republic brazenly ran ads in the newspaper advertising to replace the very jobs that were purportedly being downsized for route supervisor positions. Unfortunately, the reduction in force was nothing but a means to favor younger workers.
Older workers were frozen out, and denied any opportunity to even transfer to a different job.
With respect to drivers and trash collectors: Anyone over 40 was replaced with drivers in their 20s and 30’s. The EEOC found that Republic favored drivers and trash collectors in their 20’s and 30’s, believing that they worked better and faster.
EEOC discovered many witnesses that confirmed that Republic condoned a practice called “break him off”.
This practice was directed at older drivers and trash collectors, who were subjected to harder work and given far flung routes. Claimants and witnesses confirmed that trucks would not stop to allow older workers the time to properly load the trash.
Once injured, the trash collectors or drivers over 40 were forced out of the company and not allowed to come back, while those in their 20’s and 30’s, who may have been injured, were given the opportunity to return, including providing accommodations for their injuries.
The general stereotype that somehow younger employees work faster, cheaper and better was shown to be untrue.
The saddest part about this case is the fact that many of the employees worked for the company for over 25 years and some as long as 30.
We are pleased today to announce that after six years of litigation, the EEOC settled the federal lawsuit with Republic for $2.975 million dollars on behalf of a class of 21 claimants, 20 male and 1 female.
More importantly, aside from the money, we are very pleased to announce sweeping injunctive relief remedies that Republic agreed to enter into to ensure that older workers are protected in the workplace.
Specific terms are as follows:
In December 2009, Republic Services merged with Allied Waste. I want to commend Republic for their commitment to instituting the broad sweeping changes the parties worked hard on to ensure that the longstanding practices that compelled the EEOC to bring this case, is no longer tolerated, and that a strong message is sent that age discrimination will not be tolerated.
In closing, to those who say that age cases are not as severe or as harmful to society or the victims, or that age discrimination is somehow a lesser evil, or that it doesn’t do as much harm because of a false assumption that the individuals can find work elsewhere, age cases have a devastating impact on victims. At a time in their lives when they should be enjoying the fruits of their labor and looking forward to retirement, many of them never get that opportunity.
You will hear from some of the claimants the common story that so many victims of age discrimination face: that they have not been able to regain anywhere close to the income they had, and that in some cases, even when faced with rising medical bills for themselves and their families, some lost their homes. \
For those who survive, they can tell of the great sense of loss and pain. And many have fought on, and I thank them today for being here.
We hope that this case raises awareness of the devastating impact that age discrimination has on the workers that make up the backbone of our country.
Here at the EEOC we have a singular mission: to eradicate discrimination in the workplace. We are celebrating our 45th anniversary of our doors opening to carry out our mandate.
That mission remains ever relevant and even more important today in these uncertain economic times.
We hope that anyone who feels that they have been a victim of discrimination at work come forward to their local EEOC office, and take that step to seek help.
I now want to introduce the senior trial attorney, Sue Noh, who showed unwavering commitment to this case and to the claimants for over six years.
She will then introduce the claimants who will speak about their experiences.
Court approved the settlement Sept 21, 2010.