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EEOC Settles Age Discrimination Case Only One Week After Suit Filed

In another indication that the EEOC is cracking down on age discrimination, it announced on Monday that it settled an age discrimination lawsuit brought against DSW, formerly known as Designer Shoe Warehouse. The suit was settled only a week after it had been filed (probably because most of DSW's customers are over 40!)

The problem started for DSW when it used one of the oldest tricks in the book, a "reduction in force" as an excuse to rid itself of older employees. The EEOC stated in its complaint that the company not only terminated older employees solely because of their age, but also retaliated against certain employees who refused to cooperated with the so called "reduction in force" when they recognized it was directed at older employees.

According to the complaint, DSW had regularly discriminated against its employees who were more than 40 years old in the Midwest region since 2007. The lawsuit was brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which prohibits age discrimination in employment.

Although the suit was settled for $900,000 a week after it was filed, DSW denied violating the law, and claimed it settled primarily to avoid the costs of litigation. The settlement will be distributed to seven former managers and about 100 other former employees, which comes out to about $8,400 per age discrimination victim. DSW is also required to report any future employee complaints of age discrimination to the EEOC for the next three years, and to revise its anti-discrimination policy. In addition, the company must train all its employees in the affected locations on the prevention and eradication of age discrimination.

As the baby boomers reach their 50s and 60s, we will undoubtedly see an increase in age discrimination claims. According to a new book by Patricia Barnes, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination, in 2013 the EEOC received more than 21,000 complaints of age discrimination but filed only seven lawsuits with age discrimination claims. She asserts that the EEOC has not responded to the increasing number of cases and is ignoring the problem. Maybe this lawsuit is a sign that their attitude is changing.

Regardless of the EEOC's approach to the problem, if you feel you have been the victim of age discrimination on the workplace, contact a qualified employment law attorney in your state.

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