Company Used Insurance as Excuse to Fire Older Workers

October 10, 2014 ( – Spartanburg, South Carolina-based Atchison Transportation Services has settled an age discrimination charge by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the agency, the company’s operations manager told William Thomas, who was a motor coach driver for Atchison, that he had thought Thomas was “only 70,” but because Thomas was actually 75, the company had to let him go. The complaint alleged that the operations manager further stated that the company’s insurance policy had a clause that did not allow drivers to drive after they reached the age of 75.

In addition, the EEOC’s suit said Norris Locke, who also worked as a motor coach driver for the company, was discharged by the same operations manager in April 2009, when Locke was 76. The operations manager stated that Locke was fired because the company’s insurance carrier would no longer insure him.

The EEOC said the company’s insurance policy had no age restriction for coverage.

Atchison agreed to pay $85,000 and furnish other relief to settle a lawsuit brought by the EEOC in federal district court in South Carolina.

“Employers commonly make assumptions about how long persons should work before retirement, including assumptions about their ability to work based solely on age,” says EEOC regional attorney Lynette A. Barnes, based in the agency’s Charlotte district. “Employers must be careful, as making such assumptions and then acting on them can result in a violation of federal law.”