Telecommunications giant AT&T has agreed to cease discriminatory policies to settle an age discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC had charged that AT&T and a number of its subsidiaries discriminated against a class of retired AT&T workers by denying them the opportunity for reemployment solely because they retired under certain early retirement or enhanced severance programs. This practice violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), says the EEOC. According to the lawsuit, individuals who took one of the retirement packages between 1999 and 2001 were restricted from being reemployed or engaged as contractors.

The agreement settling the suit prohibits AT&T from maintaining any policy that excludes from reemployment employees who left AT&T under one of the early retirement plans. The decree also prohibits AT&T from requiring a different process for selecting retirees than any other type of employee.

Many former employees who took an early retirement package years ago still need work, says the EEOC, and will now have an equal opportunity to apply for new jobs at AT&T. The agency commended AT&T for changing its policies and working to resolve the case.