An age discrimination lawsuit against the Equitable Life AssuranceSociety ended when a U.S. district judge approved a settlement workedout between the company and 363 former employees.
The Equal EmploymentOpportunity Commission (EEOC) had also joined the plaintiffs in chargingthat Equitable had violated Federal age discrimination rules in 1978,when it fired the plaintiffs. At the time, Equitable had indicated thatthe firings were simply part of a plan to cut costs. This was contestedby the plaintiffs–many of whom were more than 40 years old–who claimedthat they were terminated to open promotions to younger employees. Indescribing the settlement, the EEOC asserted that Equitable had timedthe firings to precede the January 1, 1979, effective date of anamendment to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act that extendedprotection to persons between age 40 and 70. An Equitable official said that the EEOC assertions were”absolutely untrue” and that the settlement did not containany findings of illegal conduct by the company.
Continuing, theofficial said that Equitable “has always denied and continues todeny that it violated the law” and that it had settled only toavoid prolonged and costly court proceedings. Under the settlement, $12.5 million–reportedly a record among fora discrimination case–will be distributed to the plaintiffs accordingto the financial losses they sustained.
In exchange, they agreed todrop their claims against the company.