EEOC Sues Railroad for Age Bias in Buyout Plan

March 1, 2006 ( - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed suit against BNSF Railway Co., alleging that older workers were excluded from a recent buyout plan.

The Kansas City Star reports that the EEOC filed the age discrimination suit on behalf of at least 33 clerical workers who worked at BNSF sites in Kansas City, Kansas; Topeka, Kansas; and Fort Worth, Texas.

The EEOC alleges that between 2003 and 2005, BNSF offered an incentive-laden buyout plan for certain groups of clerical workers, but not those eligible for retirement, according to the Star. The buyout offer was for BNSF employees to leave the company but continue receiving $2,500 a month for three years, also receiving employment credit for those three years. The other option was a $90,000 lump sum payment.

One 72-year-old woman was not offered a chance to participate in the plan because it would have maximized her retirement benefit, according to the EEOC.

The suit also names the Transportation Communications International Union, which represents BNSF’s clerical workers. According to the EEOC, the railroad and union negotiated a contract in which clerical workers lost their “protected” job status after turning 70. Protected employees are guaranteed the same pay rate in the event they are bumped to lower-paying jobs or laid off.

The EEOC is seeking a court ruling that BNSF and the union change their policies as well as back wages for the group of clerical workers denied a chance to participate in the buyout program.