Fastener Distribution Company Pays $201,000 to Top Salesman Who Was Fired in Favor of Younger Hires, Agency Charged
DALLAS - A Carrollton, Texas-based distributor of specialty fasteners with sales territories that span the country will pay $200,000 and furnish other relief to settle an age discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Advance Components' executive vice president and general manager, Gary Craven, made ageist comments to Dan Miller, a 64-year-old national sales manager, and finally fired him because of his age. Miller had almost 20 years experience selling the company's products and had been hired by Advance Components' founder. According to the EEOC, Craven called Miller "old-fashioned" and repeatedly expressed his preference to hire younger salesmen with his motto: "30-30-30. Hire a 30-year-old with an IQ of 30 and pay him $30,000." Craven also allegedly made comments about outside sales being a young man's game because they were more "driven" and that he wanted to "put young guys on the street."
Miller was fired on Oct. 6, 2009. His position was filled the following day by a man in his 30s.
Discriminating against an employee because of his age violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 3-11-cv-2081-B in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In the consent decree settling the suit, signed by Judge Jane J. Boyle on May 18, 2012, Advance Components agreed to pay $201,000 to Dan Miller. The company will also train management (including the owners) and supervisory personnel on equal employment opportunity (EEO) policies and procedures, including those on age discrimination. The company will be required to enforce a written policy against age discrimination and retaliation.
"Older workers have the right to be evaluated based on their abilities and not based on their age," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney William C. Backhaus. "Every employer, large and small, needs to recognize the importance of avoiding stereotypes, including those about age and older workers. Advance Components wrongly assumed that Mr. Miller's age, 64, interfered with his ability to connect with customers. It didn't - we learned that he was their top producer and that customers loved him."
Mr. Miller was represented by attorney Rogge Dunn. Dunn said "Employer's replacement of senior employees with younger employees who are less qualified often leads to an employer being legally liable for substantial damages." "Employers should do their homework before hiring replacements because these types of actions catch the attention of attorneys and the EEOC."
EEOC Regional Attorney Robert A. Canino added, "Success in sales is not something we would expect to be adversely affected by a greater degree of experience. Broad-brush assumptions that a 30-something is going to be more effective with marketing skills than a 60-something are arbitrary and misplaced suppositions that can lead to a violation of the law. If this '30-30-30' theory was at play in the decision to discharge Mr. Miller, we hope the message here is that a rule of thumb like that just doesn't add up to a good business practice."
“I’m always pleased when the Dallas District can partner with local counsel and achieve an outstanding result,” said Acting District Director Janet Elizondo. “The Commission continues to be an active part of enforcement and litigation here in the Northern District of Texas.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.