Employer Refused to Hire Older Applicants For Special Agent Position, Federal Agency Charged
NEW JERSEY – Norfolk Southern Corporation, a transportation company that operates a 19,500-mile freight railroad system in 22 states and the District of Columbia, has agreed to pay $350,000 and take substantial non-monetary action to settle an age discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Norfolk Southern Corporation refused to hire qualified individuals over the age of 51 for the position of special agent, a railway security position. A Norfolk Southern Corporation hiring official told one such unsuccessful applicant the company had an unwritten policy of not hiring individuals older than 51 as special agents because it believed they would not work for Norfolk Southern for ten years.
Such alleged conduct violated The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) which protects employees and applicants age 40 or older from age discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (EEOC v. Norfolk Southern Corp., Civil Action No. 2:18-cv-14727), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. This case was litigated by EEOC trial attorneys Liane Rice and Rosemary DiSavino, supervised by supervisory trial attorney Raechel Adams.
On January 30, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Kevin McNulty entered a consent decree resolving the case. The consent decree includes a $350,000 monetary award for lost wages and other damages for the applicants aged 51 and over who applied for special agent positions that were filled between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2019and whom EEOC determined were not hired due to their age. The three-year consent decree also provides injunctive relief, including: changes to Norfolk Southern’s Mandatory Guidance Regarding Non-Discrimination in Police Department Hiring; the inclusion of the substance of this guidance in relevant job postings; annual training on age discrimination for all police department employees and others involved in the hiring of special agents; and periodic reports to the EEOC concerning special agent hiring, age discrimination complaints, and consent decree compliance.
“The ADEA does not permit employers to make hiring decisions based on stereotyped assumptions about when older workers will choose to retire,” said EEOC Regional attorney Jeffrey Burstein.
Judy Keenan, the EEOC’s New York District’s acting district director, said, “Employers must properly train their hiring officials so age discrimination does not factor into the hiring process.”
The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.