Settlement in Case of Workers Fired on 62nd Birthday

Stack Bros. Mechanical Contractors, Inc. of Superior, Wis., a major heating and plumbing contractor in northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota, will  pay $140,000  to settle an age discrimination and retaliation lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Stack Bros. fired veteran employees Randy Virta and Karen Kolodzeske when they turned 62 in 2014.  Stack Bros. also retaliated against Kolodzeske for complaining and resisting its plans to fire her, EEOC alleged.

happy-birthdayThe EEOC said both Virta and Kolodzeske repeatedly warned Stack Bros.’ owner that his plan to fire them when they turned 62 was illegal.  After firing Virta, the owner retaliated against Kolodzeske by denying her a raise, suspending her without pay for two days and creating a hostile work environment while waiting for her to turn 62. Virta and Kolodzeske had worked for Stack Bros. for 16 and 25 years, respectively.

The consent decree settling the suit provides that Stack Bros. will pay $95,000 to Virta, $35,000 to Kolodzeske, and  $10,000 to their their private attorneys. In addition, the company must train its managers and employees with respect to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. .

“Employers often speak about how valuable loyalty in the workplace is,” said Chicago EEOC Attorney John C. Hendrickson.   “But it’s a two-way street.”

Hendrickson said retaliation complaints have been the fastest-increasing type of complaint filed with the EEOC over the past 15 years. One of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan is eliminating policies and practices that discourage  individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes or that impede the EEOC’s investigative or enforcement efforts, is

Stack Bros. is a privately held corporation and is a major heating and plumbing contractor in the Upper Midwest. A website lists the company’s annual revenue as approximately $10 million. The consent decree in the case, EEOC v. Stack Bros. Mechanical Contractors, Inc., No. 3:15-cv-60, was filed on September 18 in  U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in Madison .

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