NEW YORK – AZ Metro Distributors, LLC, a distributor of Arizona Iced Tea products, will pay $300,000 and furnish other relief to settle an age discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that the company willfully discriminated against two sales employees by discharging them because of age, and, in September 2019, a jury agreed. After the EEOC declined to accept a lesser award of monetary relief proposed by the court, the parties entered into the settlement agreement in lieu of conducting a second trial on damages.
At trial, the EEOC presented evidence that AZ Metro discharged Cesar Fernandez and Archibald Roberts — the two oldest sales employees in their department — at the ages of 64 and 66. On the day the employees were fired, a supervisor at AZ Metro’s Brooklyn location said that the company wanted to hire younger workers and move the sales force in a “different direction,” according to trial testimony.
Such alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits age discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. AZ Metro Distributors, LLC, Civil Action No. 1:15-CV-05370) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process. The case was litigated by EEOC Trial Attorney Kirsten Peters and Supervisory Trial Attorney Justin Mulaire.
The consent decree settling the suit provides a total of $300,000 in lost wages and liquidated damages, along with significant non-monetary relief designed to prevent further discrimination. These provisions include a five-year injunction prohibiting AZ Metro from discharging employees because of their age, updates to the company’s internal policies, and training for the company’s Brooklyn and Queens branch employees about federal anti-discrimination law. The company must also report to the EEOC any internal complaints of age discrimination or retaliation it receives in the next two years.
“Age discrimination is still far too common in the workplace,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the New York District Office. “Our agency will continue to fight to protect the rights of workers through litigation when necessary, especially when a recalcitrant employer refuses to accept responsibility.”
EEOC New York District Director Judy Keenan added, “An employee should only be judged by performance and not his or her age. The EEOC will continue to work conscientiously to identify employers who discriminate on the basis of age and take the appropriate steps ensure that such unlawful conduct stops.”
Peters, who led the agency’s litigation effort, said, “AZ Metro’s decision to fire these hard-working employees because of their age impacted the employees’ lives in ways that cannot fully be repaired. I respect and applaud their decision to come forward and report AZ Metro’s discriminatory behavior to our agency.”
The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, northern New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont. The New York District Office, located in Manhattan, conducted the investigation resulting in this lawsuit.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC.gov)