CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (09/15/14) – According to the Chicago Tribute, popular shoe chain Designer Shoe Warehouse (“DSW”) has agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) for age discrimination charges. The settlement is in the amount of $900,000. The suit claimed that DSW terminated employees older than 40 and also retaliated against employees who complained about the blatant age discrimination and against store managers who refused to go along with firing employees over age 40.
Although they settled with the EEOC in record time (only a week after the suit was officially filed), according to a DSW spokesperson they still “unequivocally denied” the charge that it made a policy of letting employees over age 40 go. He claimed the firings had to do with “economic circumstances” rather than age discrimination. DSW also stated that instead of engaging in a prolonged legal battle, they decided settling was more beneficial to management and their stockholders.
The monetary settlement, will benefit former DSW employees over 40 who were let go during the time period between 2007-2010. According to Consumerist, 107 former employees were members of the class action suit and the suit consisted of seven managers and 100 non-management employees.
As part of the settlement, DSW agreed to revamp their anti-discrimination practices and also accepted the condition of being monitored by the EEOC for three years regarding discrimination.
If you are in a similar situation, over age 40 and your employer tells you that you are being terminated because of “economic factors” or a “reduction in force,” you should consult with an employment law attorney immediately after you are terminated because you have a very limited time period of only 180 days to file employment discrimination charges. Some states and localities extend the deadline to 300 days, but that is also a small amount of time to bring a lawsuit, especially when compared to the deadlines for other types of lawsuits.
Another thing companies are doing these days is giving employees over 40 a “choice” to sign an agreement giving up all rights to sue them for any and all reasons in return for severance pay. Lately, this has been especially prevalent with employees aged 50 and over, to the point that it has been commented on in the media that age 50 is soon going to be the most prevalent “forced retirement age” because employers are letting people in this age group go in record numbers compared to the past and employers don’t hire them and make excuses to hire someone younger. Employees in this age group are in a triple bind because they are too young to take money out of their 401(k), too young to collect Social Security, and too young to be eligible for Medicare when they lose their jobs and health insurance benefits.
If you are over age 40 and have been let go, contact a labor and employment lawyer. If you are over age 40 and did not get hired by a company when you had the exact experience they claimed to be looking for, consult a labor and employment attorney. And, most importantly, if you are faced with an agreement to give up all your legal rights in order to get severance pay, consult an attorney who devotes a significant portion of their practice to labor and employment law before you sign anything.