Transportation Company Fired Older Drivers Because of Their Age, Federal Agency Charged
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Spartanburg, S.C.-based Atchison Transportation Services, Inc., the largest full-service ground transportation company in South Carolina, has agreed to pay $85,000 and furnish other relief to settle an age discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that the company discriminated against two motor coach drivers when it fired them because of their ages, 75 and 76, respectively.
According to the EEOC's suit, around Dec. 21, 2011, William Thomas, who was a motor coach driver for Atchison, was told by the company's operations manager that the company was terminating him. The operations manager told Thomas that he had thought that Thomas was "only 70," but because Thomas was actually 75, the company had to let him go. The complaint alleged that the operations manager further stated that the company's insurance policy had a clause that did not allow drivers to drive after they reached the age of 75.
The EEOC's suit made similar charges concerning Norris Locke, who also worked as a motor coach driver for the company. The same operations manager had previously discharged Locke, who was 76 at the time, around Apr. 30, 2009. According to the EEOC's suit, the operations manager stated that Locke was fired because the company's insurance carrier would no longer insure Locke. The EEOC said that the company's insurance policy had no age restriction for coverage.
Discrimination against persons age 40 and over based on age violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Spartanburg Division (EEOC v. Atchison Transportation Services, Inc., Civil Action No. 7:13-CV-02342-HMH-JDA), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to monetary damages, the two-year consent decree resolving the litigation requires Atchison Transportation to develop and implement a policy that prohibits discrimination based on age in the future. The decree further requires the company to conduct preventive annual training on requirements of the ADEA for employees, supervisors and managers. Finally, the company will report to the EEOC each time that it discharges an employee who is over age of 40 and will post a notice about the lawsuit in its Spartanburg facility.
"Employers commonly make assumptions about how long persons should work before retirement, including assumptions about their ability to work based solely on age," said EEOC Regional Attorney Lynette A. Barnes of the agency's Charlotte District. "Employers must be careful as making such assumptions and then acting on them, can result in a violation of federal law."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.