Judge Rules Age Discrimination Claims Against CSAA Can Proceed In One Trial

On January 28, 2014, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Judith S. Craddick issued a ruling denying CSAA’s motion to hold nine separate age discrimination trials of former sales agent’s claims of age discrimination against the company. Instead, the claims will proceed to trial together on February 18, 2014. The trial will be held in the Contra Costa County Superior Court, Case No. C 10-03173, Estate of Charles Robert Fitzgerald, et. al. v. California State Automobile Association et al. CSAA’s headquarters are located in Walnut Creek.

In the lawsuit, filed November 1, 2010, nine former insurance sales agents allege they were either forced to resign or fired by CSAA because of their age. One former agent, Robert Fitzgerald, died while the lawsuit was pending. CSAA subsequently agreed to settle his claims with his estate.

Each of the agents is at least 50 years old, and had long and successful careers with the company. According to the lawsuit, CSAA adopted a policy of forcing out older agents who had built up large books of business in order to avoid paying renewal commissions to those agents. Once terminated, these agents’ books of business become house accounts, with no commissions owed. This potentially saves CSAA a lot of money in unpaid commissions. Instead of paying sales agents commissions, CSAA is driving new sales to call centers it has set up staffed by newer, younger employees who are not paid any commission.

This is the third time CSAA has brought a motion, asking the judge to separate the cases into separate trials. In her ruling today, Judge Craddick wrote that the claims should be tried together because the case involves “claims of a company-wide pattern and practice of discrimination that will involve evidence common across all plaintiffs.” As such, Judge Craddick determined that “‘the convenience of witnesses, the ends of justice and the economy and efficiency of handling the litigation are best served here by having plaintiffs’ claims tried together.”

Lead plaintiffs’ attorney J. Gary Gwilliam commented on the ruling: “CSAA does not want these cases tried together because it serves to focus the spotlight on a company that has been engaging in illegal age discrimination for years. For the third time, the judge has told them that this trial will go forward as one case. This is an important ruling toward getting justice for these employees who were loyal to CSAA for years, only to be wrongfully fired just because CSAA thought they got too old, and made too much money.”