Judge: Allstate Innocent of Age Discrimination Claims

April 2, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Allstate Insurance Co. agents have lost a court battle over whether the company committed age discrimination by forcing thousands of them to become private contractors who are only eligible for limited benefits.

U.S. District Judge John Fullam in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, decided that the plaintiffs hadn’t proven the central allegation in their class-action lawsuit: that the 6,400 people affected by the reorganization had a median age of 50 and were the victims of a policy that unfairly targeted older workers, the Associated Press reported.

In a pretrial ruling, Fullam said he could find no basis for the age discrimination claim “for the simple reason that employees of all ages were treated alike.”

“An employer who visits adverse consequences upon all employees, irrespective of age, cannot be held liable for age discrimination,” Fullam wrote. “The fact, if it is a fact, that many of the affected employees, or even a majority, are within the protected age group, is irrelevant.”

Fullam also threw out a lawsuit in which the agents had challenged a series of 1990s pension plan changes after ruling that the workers waited too long to file the court action.

Things weren’t a total loss for the workers, however, Fullam left standing two other major parts of the case in which the plaintiffs alleged that the company violated labor law and committed a breach of contract by laying them off and then rehiring them as contractors with few retirement benefits on June 30, 2000.

Fullamsaid the company was wrong to have forced the agents to either sign a release waiving their right to sue for discrimination. He gave the agents the option of voiding the waivers within the next 90 days, although those that do so would have to repay any financial benefits they had been offered for signing.