Firm to Pay for Firing Retirement-Age Workers

The EEOC accused the firm of firing two employees when they reached age 62.

Stack Bros. Mechanical Contractors, Inc., a heating and plumbing contractor in northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota, will pay $140,000 and furnish other relief to settle an age discrimination and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The agency’s investigation revealed Randy Virta and Karen Kolodzeske repeatedly warned the company’s owner that his plan to fire them when they turned 62 was illegal. However, the owner followed through with his plans, firing both employees and retaliating against Kolodzeske for her complaints, first by denying her a raise and then by demoting her and cutting her hours and pay. Virta and Kolodzeske had worked for Stack Bros. for 16 and 25 years, respectively.                               

The consent decree settling the suit prohibits future discrimination and provides that Stack Bros. will pay $95,000 to Virta and $35,000 to Kolodzeske, pay $10,000 of their private attorney’s fees and train its managers and employees regarding employer obligations and the rights of employees under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

“Employers often speak about how valuable loyalty in the workplace is,” says EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson. “But it’s a two-way street. Long-time, dedicated employees, like those in this case, are entitled to expect that their employers will not discharge them because of their age and in defiance of federal law. When Stack Bros. fired Mr. Virta and Ms. Kolodzeske because of their age, it ruptured the band of loyalty. This settlement is a way to make things right.”