Central Freight Lines, Inc.To Pay $400,000 to Eight Fired Dockworkers

DALLAS – Central Freight Lines Inc. has agreed to settle an age discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for $400,000.00 to be paid to eight former dockworkers, the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 3-10-cv-1954-K in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division), Central Freight Lines, Inc. discriminated against Ricky Curry, John Bean, Paul Elwell, Richard Harris, James Thurmond, Keith Vessels, Purvis Carter and Reynaldo Tijerina by selecting them for termination because of their age in an August 31, 2007, reduction in force. The EEOC charged that the company used a reduction-in-force as a ruse to fire eight dockworkers, some of whom had worked at the company for 20 or more years and were approximately 50 years old and older.

A consolidated suit filed by the EEOC and the private parties alleged that workers were called names like “grandpa,” “old farts” and “old bastards” by their supervisor, who also had been tasked with preparing a list of the men to be terminated. According to the EEOC, the company also changed its attendance and disciplinary policy so that the men, who had not had more than a few disciplinary write-ups, were suddenly put on corrective action and eligible for termination under the new policy.

The company then replaced the older employees with younger hires.

Discriminating against an individual because of his or her age violates The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) of 1967. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. On the first day of a scheduled eight-day trial, the attorneys for the parties reached agreement to settle the case by Consent Decree filed with the Court and signed by U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade on May 9, 2012.

In the Consent Decree, the company agreed to pay $400,000 to the claimants and to train management and supervisory personnel at the Central Freight Dallas and Ft.Worth Terminals on equal employment opportunity policies and procedures. The company will also commit to enforce a written policy against age discrimination.

"It is an injustice to terminate these loyal workers who gave so many years of their lives to Central Freight," said William C. Backhaus, Senior Trial Attorney for the EEOC. "Laying people off because of their age is a violation of federal law."

“Central Freight treated these experienced dockworkers like they were expendable,” said Suzanne M. Anderson, Supervisory Trial Attorney. “This case shows that EEOC will remain vigilant in our protection of older workers.”

“Reductions in force are unfortunately not unusual in tough economic times, but a freight business should realize that unloading more experienced older dockworkers while pushing to hire younger ones is not the answer,” said Robert A. Canino, Regional Attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office. “The costs that can result from age discrimination can lead to yet a heavier load to bear.”

Six of the dockworkers in the EEOC’s suit--brought on behalf of the class of older workers-- were individually represented by attorneys Claudine Jackson and April Robbins of the Brackett & Ellis law firm in Ft. Worth.