Company Engaged in Unlawful Age Discrimination, Including Refusing to Hire Older Workers, Federal Agency Charged
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cavalier Telephone Company Inc. will pay $1 million and furnish other significant relief to settle an age discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, from around May 2003 and continuing, Cavalier Telephone’s mid-Atlantic region had a practice of not hiring applicants age 40 or older for sales account executive positions. The EEOC charged that Cavalier indicated both verbally and in writing that the company was looking for candidates for its sales positions who were “recent college graduates,” and in their “early 20s or 30s.” Cavalier offered its employees a $500 bonus for referral of a “friend’s younger brother and sister.” The EEOC alleged that as a result of the discriminatory recruitment and hiring practices, Cavalier maintained a work force that underrepresented people age 40 or older in its sales positions within its mid-Atlantic region. The company’s mid-Atlantic region includes five states – Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey – as well as Washington, D.C.
The EEOC’s complaint also included individual claims of retaliation against two former Cavalier Telephone employees. The complaint alleged that two former employees were demoted for complaining about the company’s discriminatory hiring practices. One of the demoted employees resigned from Cavalier while the other continued to complain about age discrimination and was ultimately fired, the EEOC charged.
Age discrimination violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). Persons age 40 or older are protected from employment discrimination by the act. It is also unlawful under the ADEA to retaliate against an employee who complains about age discrimination because of his or her complaint. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Cavalier Telephone Company, Inc.; Civil Action No. 3:10-cv-664 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Pursuant to the consent decree resolving the litigation, Cavalier agreed to pay $1 million in monetary relief. The money will be distributed to the two individuals who were allegedly retaliated against for complaining about the discriminatory practices and to a class of individuals age 40 or older who, the EEOC determined, were not hired because of their age.
“Cavalier Telephone’s hiring practices penalized older applicants simply because of their age and that is illegal,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez. “I am pleased that we were able to work out a resolution of this suit that provides relief for the victims of discrimination and brings the company’s practices into compliance with the law.”
“We brought this lawsuit to advance everyone’s legal right to a workplace free of age bias,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office, which oversees litigation filed by the agency in Virginia. “Stereotypes concerning the abilities of older workers often lead companies to make discriminatory hiring decisions. This lawsuit and settlement will serve as a reminder to all employers that companies must make employment decisions based on an applicant’s ability to perform the job, not his or her age.”
In addition to the monetary relief, the three-year consent decree resolving this case provides significant injunctive relief covering Cavalier Telephone’s locations in its mid-Atlantic region. For example, the decree:
The decree also requires Cavalier to provide jobs to qualified applicants age 40 or older who were denied hire because of the alleged discriminatory hiring practices.
According to its website, Richmond, Va.-based Cavalier Telephone is a full-service provider of telecommunication services for residential and business customers. In December 2010, after this lawsuit was filed, Cavalier was acquired by PAETEC and now the combined companies deliver telecommunication services in 86 of the top 100 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the United States.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.