EEOC Files Class Action Discrimination Suit Against Chicago Union

The Equal Employment Opportunity Comm’n alleged in a class action filed Aug. 16 that a collective bargaining agreement between the Int’l Longshoremen’s Ass’n and two Chicago cargo firms violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.  EEOC attorney, John Hendrickson, said ILA and the employers discriminated against workers over 70.5 years-old. The alleged discrimination comes from a provision requiring that such workers forfeit their seniority. The suit is the first of its kind filed by EEOC.

Hendrickson said there are approximately 12 individuals in the class, but more may be identified during the discovery phase of the litigation. Defendants include ILA, ILA Local 19 and ILA’s Great Lakes Dist., as well as, Ceres Terminal, Inc., and Federal Marine Terminals, Inc. The suit seeks back pay and damages for members of the class.

The suit began by a charge filed by longshoreman Wardell Hart, who lost his seniority because he was older than 70.5 years. A 1998 contract specifies that seniority be forfeited by individuals collecting pension benefits from the Marine Terminal & Welfare Fund. Only individuals over 70.5 years can collect such benefits while working. Hendrickson said the provision severely limits class members’ ability to work.

Ceres President Chris Kritikos, expressed frustration with the suit, noting that the union, not the company, drives such contractual issues. “It is the union’s contract that sets the retirement dates, and we, as the employers, must comply with the terms of the agreement,” he said. [BNA 8/23/99]