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Woolworth Hit With Age Bias Suit

July 1, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ Woolworth Corp. fired dozens of employees in stores across the nation because they were over 40 years old, according to an age discrimination lawsuit filed Thursday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The federal court suit alleges that between September 1995 and October 1997, older employees were targeted for layoffs and replaced by younger workers from outside the company.

The firings occurred at individual Woolworth stores and were approved by the company’s human resource department, according to the lawsuit.

Woolworth’s, which opened its first store in 1879, closed its final shop in 1997. It has since changed its name to the Venator Group, Specialty, Inc.

The parent company, the Venator Group, continues to operate Foot Locker and other retail stores.

On Thursday, Venator spokeswoman Eleanor Linek declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The suit alleges that some of the fired employees had worked at Woolworth for several decades, including some workers who were 70 years or older.

``Reductions in (work) force may be a necessary fact of economic life; age discrimination is not,″ said Spencer H. Lewis Jr., director of the EEOC’s New York district office. ``Productive hard-working employees with 20 to 30 years experience deserve better than to be displaced by younger, less-experienced persons hired off the street.″

Fifty-five people have claimed that Woolworth fired them because they were deemed too old, though the EEOC said the number may be as high as 300.

The lawsuit seeks back pay for the former employees, monetary damages and an injunction to keep the company from discriminating in the future.

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