Telecommunications giant AT&T has agreed to cease discriminatory policies to settle an age discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced today.

The EEOC had charged that AT&T, Inc. and a number of its subsidiaries discriminated against a class of retired AT&T workers by denying them the opportunity for reemployment solely because they retired under certain early retirement or enhanced severance programs. This practice violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the EEOC said.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, individuals who participated in the Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program (VRIP – an AT&T Corp. program from 1998-1999, before its merger with SBC Communications from 2005 to 2007), the Enhanced Pension and Retirement Program (EPR – a pre-merger SBC program from 2000 to 2001), and the Change-in-Control Program (CIC – a pre-merger AT&T Corp. program conducted in connection with the merger) were restricted from being reemployed or engaged as contractors because they took one of these retirement packages.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. AT&T Inc., AT&T Corp., AT&T Services, Inc. and Pacific Bell Telephone Company, d/b/a/ AT&T California, Case No. 09-CIV-7323) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Aug. 20, 2009, after first trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. AT&T denied the allegations in the lawsuit, but agreed to change its policies related to the reemployment of retirees.

The consent decree settling the suit, entered on Oct. 25, 2011 by U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken, prohibits AT&T from maintaining any policy that excludes from reemployment employees who left AT&T under one of the early retirement plans. The decree also prohibits AT&T from requiring a different process for selecting retirees than any other former employees.

“Many former employees who took an early retirement package years ago still need work, and will now have an equal opportunity to apply for new jobs at AT&T,” said Anna M. Pohl, a trial attorney in the EEOC’s New York District Office. “AT&T is to be commended for changing its policies and working with the EEOC to resolve this case.”

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