Federal Agency Charged Discount Shoe Chain Illegally Fired Older Workers
CHICAGO – DSW Inc., with over 10,000 employees nationwide, will pay $900,000 to end an age discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
The EEOC had charged that DSW, formerly known as Designer Shoe Warehouse, discriminated against seven former management employees in its Midwest Region and a class of former employees, by firing employees over the age of 40 years old during a “reduction in force.” The EEOC said the company terminated older employees because of their age and retaliated against certain employees who opposed orders to discriminate against older workers. The EEOC’s complaint covered DSW’s field personnel in DSW’s Midwest Region and DSW’s Corporate Home Office employees.
The EEOC’s lawsuit was brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which prohibits age discrimination in employment. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its statutory conciliation process. The case, EEOC v. DSW Inc., Civil Action No. 14-cv-07153, was filed on Sept. 15 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. EEOC Trial Attorneys Jeanne Szromba and Laura Feldman and Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason litigated the case on behalf of the government.
DSW opted for a negotiated end to the case with EEOC immediately after the lawsuit was filed. U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feinerman of the Northern District of Illinois entered a consent decree resolving the lawsuit on Sept. 19, less than a week after the case was filed. The decree provides $900,000 in monetary relief to the victims and requires DSW to report to the EEOC for the next three years on all employee complaints of age discrimination arising out of the regions covered by the decree. The company must also train all its employees in these locations on the prevention and eradication of age discrimination, and also revise its anti-discrimination policy.
“Age discrimination is a real problem in employment today,” said the EEOC district director in Chicago, John Rowe, who managed the EEOC’s administrative investigation of the charges of discrimination underlying the lawsuit. “Too many employers fail to see the value of the experienced portion of their workforce. But when an employer charged with such discrimination works with the EEOC to fix the problem, everyone wins.”
John Hendrickson, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago, said, “We’re pleased that DSW worked to resolve this suit so quickly, without the need to go through expensive and time-consuming litigation. Instead, DSW chose to focus on making changes in its workplace and compensating victims. As a result, the day when those put out of work are compensated and the day when DSW is able to again focus 100% on its business will be here sooner rather than later.”
EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.