ATLANTA — The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently filed a lawsuit against Smithfield Foods Inc., alleging that the meat processor fired a senior sales employee because of her age. 

According to the allegations in the lawsuit, the employee worked for Smithfield for 10 years and was fired at the age of 59.

The EEOC said that Smithfield claims it terminated the employee as part of a reduction-in-force of its sales staff. 

As part of the reduction, five out of six terminated employees by Smithfield were 55 years or older, according to the lawsuit, while 14 out of 18 employees under the age of 55 were not terminated.  

Another allegation stated that despite initially notifying the employee that her termination was part of the reduction-in-force, Smithfield Foods later claimed to have discharged her because of her alleged refusal to relocate to the company’s Smithfield, Va., headquarters.

The employee then continued to work for Smithfield from her home in the Atlanta area for approximately 15 months before termination. 

A Smithfield company spokesperson said “no comment” when asked about the lawsuit by MEAT+POULTRY.

The case will be heard in the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia after attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its administrative conciliation process, according to the EEOC. 

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits age discrimination against any individual over the age of 40, which is alleged in this lawsuit.