NU Online News Service, Dec. 28, 9:55 a.m. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a suit against Allstate Corp., Northbrook, Ill., alleging it engaged in age-discrimination against its agents.

The suit was filed late yesterday in the U.S. District Court of Philadelphia.

Talks between the company and the EEOC over complaints filed by company agents had been ongoing for more than a year and ended in February.

The suit stems from the company’s decision in 1999 to reorganize its 15,000-agency workforce into a single independent contractor program. The 6,500 employee agents affected by the re-organization were given the option of becoming independent contractors or being dismissed from the company with a severance package.

The complaint filed by more than 300 current and former Allstate agents charges that it was illegal for the company to require the agents to sign a waiver not to sue the company in order to remain with the company as independent contractors.

Allstate spokesman Bill Mellander says, “Releases like this are used routinely in the American workplace in connection with business reorganizations, and in similar situations they have consistently held up in court.

“Allstate is very disappointed to learn that the EEOC has filed a lawsuit. Allstate had certainly hoped to reach a resolution without any kind of formal litigation.”

Rod Guilmette, an Allstate agent for 30 years who left in the reorganization says the lawsuit is “long overdue, the EEOC has been negotiating on and off with Allstate for 15 months, we consider that to be a rather abnormal length of time to be negotiating with a company.

“Ourselves and others have believed that Allstate had no intention ever of conceding anything to the EEOC and this is just the delaying tactic.”

Ron Harper, an Allstate agent in Thomson, Ga. and one of the 300 who filed a complaint with the EEOC, says the lawsuit “vindicates what 6,400 agents have been saying all along, that Allstate broke the law.”

AARP has joined the EEOC as co-council on the suit, he says.