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U.S. Lawsuit Accuses AT&T Of Age Bias

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NEW YORK — The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Thursday it filed an age-discrimination lawsuit against AT&T Inc., the country's largest telecommunications provider.

The EEOC says AT&T discriminated against older employees by denying them the chance to be rehired solely because they retired under early retirement plans.

The effect of this denial, the agency said, leads to a disproportionate number of older workers not having the same opportunity to apply for re-employment with the company as younger workers. This, the agency says, amounts to age discrimination.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, claims that Dallas-based AT&T's policy not to rehire workers, who retired early under such plans as the company's Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program and Enhanced Pension and Retirement Program, excludes a class of workers from being re-employed because of their age, regardless of their qualifications.

The agency says the policy has been in effect at AT&T since at least Oct. 1, 2006. Louis Graziano, the EEOC's lead attorney on the case, said the programs affected more than 50,000 people. But how many of them were discriminated against, he added, no one knows. It would only be those who had tried to get rehired with AT&T.

AT&T spokesman Michael Coe declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit.

"But I can tell you AT&T makes diversity and inclusion a top priority, and has received national recognition for its programs and performance," he said. "Discrimination of any sort, including that based on age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, national origin or sexual orientation is not tolerated."

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