EEOC Sues AT&T, Alleging Age Discrimination

By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 21, 2009

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against AT&T on Thursday alleging that the telecommunications giant is discriminating against older workers.

The centerpiece of the suit is the charge that by company policy, AT&T will not rehire workers who have previously retired from the company.

"To deny you the opportunity to work again doesn't make any sense, particularly if you have experience," said Louis Graziano, an EEOC attorney working on the case. "The government doesn't prohibit you from having a policy that makes no sense, but if it adversely affects workers over 40, then it violates the law."

Graziano said the company has not offered any legitimate reason for the policy.

Company representatives declined to comment on the lawsuit, but issued a statement.

"AT&T makes diversity and inclusion a top priority, and has received national recognition for its programs and performance," the statement said. "Discrimination of any sort, including that based on age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, national origin or sexual orientation is not tolerated."

Dallas-based AT&T is the world's largest telecommunications company, with more than $124 billion in revenue in 2008.

About 50,000 AT&T workers have left the company under the retirement and severance programs cited in the lawsuit. It is not known how many of them have sought and been denied reemployment.

One of them is John Yates, 57, who the EEOC says was denied reemployment because of his age.

"AT&T has refused and continues to refuse to rehire other employees who retired from AT&T under various retirement and severance programs," says the suit, which was filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

The EEOC is asking the court to forbid the company from discriminating against older workers and to pay appropriate back wages.

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