The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



EEOC Says General Manager Referred to Older Employees as 'Worthless and Ineffective'

NEW YORK – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today submitted a consent decree for court approval to settle an age discrimination lawsuit against Austrian Airlines (Austrian) for a half million dollars and other relief on behalf of William Thoman, former director of sales for the Americas, because of his age (then 51) and in retaliation for opposing discriminatory practices in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

EEOC charged in the litigation that on December 16, 2002, without any prior warning, the general manager of Austrian Airlines North America terminated Thoman and replaced him with a 32-year-old employee. Prior to the termination, Thoman had objected to the general manager’s characterization of older workers as “worthless and ineffective” and told him that under U.S. law, he could not simply “get rid of” older workers.

“I hope this settlement sends a clear message to Austrian Airlines and other foreign companies operating in the U.S. that they cannot operate without consideration for U.S. laws,” said Thoman. “I hope the resolution in this case provides current employees of Austrian Airlines and other companies protection against age discrimination by their employers.”

In addition to paying Thoman $500,000, Austrian will take other measures on an international basis to ensure that the company does not discriminate against employees protected by U.S. anti-discrimination law. The EEOC filed suit in federal district court after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

"Age bias is still a persistent problem in the 21st century workplace,” said Spencer H. Lewis, director of the EEOC’s New York District Office. “Employers must heighten their awareness to age discrimination, especially with the graying of the workforce.”

Raechel L. Adams, the senior trial attorney litigating the case, added: “This settlement should remind all employers that U.S. law prohibits them from targeting older workers for discriminatory treatment due to age-based myths and stereotypes. All individuals deserve the freedom to compete and advance in the workplace on a level playing field.”

According to its web site (, Austrian Airlines, together with its partners, serves 130 destinations in 66 countries on five continents.

In addition to enforcing the ADEA, which prohibits discrimination against persons 40 years of age or older, the EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the Equal Pay Act; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; prohibitions against discrimination affecting individuals with disabilities in the federal government; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Further information about the Commission is available on the agency's web site at


This page was last modified on December 28, 2005.

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