Railroad Failed to Hire Older Workers as Special Agents, Federal Agency Says
Norfolk Southern Corporation, which operates a 20,000-mile freight railroad system in the eastern United States, violated federal law when it denied employment opportunities to qualified job applicants because of their age, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the lawsuit, the company preferred to hire individuals under the age of 52 for special agent positions in the railroad’s law enforcement and security detail because Norfolk Southern assumed older workers would retire soon after they were hired. For example, one 56-year-old applicant was told that he would not advance in the hiring process because he was over the age of 52. The applicant had nearly 30 years of law enforcement experience and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
The alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits age discrimination against people who are 40 or older. This includes screening out older job applicants based on the assumption that, because of their age, they are less committed to remaining in the workforce.
The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Norfolk Southern Corp., Civil Action No. 2:18-cv-14272) in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks lost wages, liquidated damages, and policy changes to prevent future age discrimination. The agency’s litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorneys Rosemary DiSavino and Katie Linehan and supervised by Supervisory Trial Attorney Justin Mulaire.
“Job seekers should be evaluated based on their qualifications, not their age,” said Jeffrey Burstein, Regional Attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “Employers may not use age to judge an applicant’s abilities or commitment to a job.”
Kevin Berry, District Director of the EEOC’s New York Office, said “The EEOC is committed to eradicating age discrimination and will keep fighting to ensure that older workers have the same opportunities for employment as other candidates, regardless of their age.”
According to its website, Norfolk Southern has more than 27,000 employees and rail operations in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serving major ports on the East Coast, Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes, and numerous river ports.
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