8 'Old Farts' In Texas Win $400,000 In Age Discrimination Settlement

Their boss would call them "grandpas," "old farts" and "old bastards." So when the eight Texas dockworkers, who all are at least 50 years old, were fired and replaced with younger hires, they thought something discriminatory might be going on. The men filed suit, and last week Central Freight Lines Inc. agreed to pay them $400,000.

Some of the eight men had worked for the less-than-truckload carrier company for over 20 years. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the company tightened its attendance and disciplinary rules so that the older men were suddenly put on corrective action for a few past infractions. Then in August 2007, they were fired.

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

Specifically, it's a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which made it illegal for a company to fire or refuse to hire someone over 40 years old because of his or her age.

Age discrimination complaints have skyrocketed since the recession as companies, in an effort to cut costs, replaced their older and better-paid workers with younger, cheaper labor. The EEOC called it an "equal opportunity plague."

"Reductions in force are unfortunately not unusual in tough economic times," said another EEOC attorney, Robert A. Canino. "But a freight business should realize that unloading more-experienced, older dockworkers while pushing to hire younger ones is not the answer. The costs that can result from age discrimination can lead to yet a heavier load to bear."

Central Freight not only agreed to pay the men almost half a million, it also plans to create a written age-discrimination policy and train its managers in discrimination law.

A lot of Central Freight employees stand to benefit, because many of them stay at the company for a good long while. Sandy Menzdorf, for example, has worked at Central Freight for half a century, and the company acknowledged him with a post on its website saying, "Congratulations Sandy from all of us here at Central for 50 years!!!" -- a slight change of tone from "old fart."

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