After more than two years of legal battles, the telecommunications giant AT&T has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The settlement will positively affect thousands of former AT&T employees who are seeking employment again since retiring.
The EEOC's lawsuit accused AT&T of engaging in age discrimination because it had refused to rehire workers who took advantage of early retirement plans offered before and during a large merger.
AT&T merged with SBC Communications in the early 2000s. Prior to that merger, employees in both companies were allowed to participate in various programs that offered incentives for early retirement.
Unfortunately, when the economy took a severe downturn a few years ago, many of these retired employees found that they needed to re-enter the workforce. As such, many chose to reapply to the company they had left.
But AT&T refused to rehire these employees because they had participated in these various early retirement programs. In 2009, the EEOC sued AT&T, alleging that its policies violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
After two years of legal battles, the lawsuit was settled earlier this week. Under the terms of the consent decree, AT&T cannot maintain any policy that excludes the rehiring of former employees who left under one of the early retirement plans. Additionally, AT&T must not use a different hiring process for these employees than they would for new applicants.
A regional attorney for the EEOC was pleased with the recent settlement. She said: "All employees, regardless of their age, should be permitted to compete for jobs equally. That is the fundamental right the ADEA grants to older workers."
Source: theJobMouse.com, "AT&T Settles EEOC Age Discrimination Lawsuit," Anneline Waldman, Oct. 27, 2011