EEOC Settles Suit With Qualex for Targeting Older Workers During RIF
BOSTON – Qualex, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Eastman Kodak, will pay $272,000 to settle an age discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The lawsuit, filed in May 2008 in federal court in Connecticut, alleged that Qualex, a photo processing company, and its parent company, Eastman Kodak, violated federal law by targeting older workers for termination through a reduction in force (RIF).
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Rochester, N.Y.-based Qualex subjected Teresa Cristelli and other workers aged 40 or older to age discrimination through the inequitable RIF at its facility in East Hartford, Conn. (since closed) in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The average age of those who lost their jobs from the RIF was over 50, the EEOC said, and far exceeded the average age of employees retained following the action.
“Employers must be very careful in making layoff decisions to ensure they do not violate employment discrimination laws,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “Contrary to some stereotypes, older workers are productive, hard-working employees who can contribute to an employer’s bottom line through their knowledge and experience.”
The settlement with Qualex provides $272,000 to four employees affected by the RIF. Teresa Cristelli, who filed the initial discrimination charge with the EEOC, will receive $200,000, and three other former employees identified by the EEOC will receive payments ranging from $12,000 to $30,000.
In addition to the monetary payments, the consent decree resolving the litigation (Civil Action No. 3:08:CV-823 [MRK]), approved by Judge Mark Kravitz today, enjoins Qualex from violating the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act when it seeks waivers and releases in exchange for severance payments; mandates training of management on ADEA requirements; requires the issuance of a new anti-discrimination policy and the posting of a notice regarding the settlement; and allows the EEOC to monitor future severance agreements during RIFs.
“In these troubled times, employers still need to be aware that when they conduct a reduction in force, they have a duty to prohibit age discrimination,” said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., director of the EEOC’s New York District Office. “The EEOC will continue to vigorously enforce such protections for workers.”
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Markus L. Penzel in Boston added, “The EEOC commends Qualex and Kodak for working cooperatively with us to resolve this case immediately upon its filing. We believe that the relief provided in the consent decree will help prevent what happened to Ms. Cristelli and the other employees from happening in the future.”
During Fiscal Year 2008, the EEOC received a record 24,582 age discrimination charge filings, a 29% increase from the prior year and a 65% jump from the number of filings in FY 2005 (14,893).
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.