- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2003

RICHMOND, Va., March 15 (UPI) — The AARP said Saturday it has joined a lawsuit alleging age discrimination at Capital One Financial Corp.

The politically powerful non-profit group representing people 50 and older has joined a Richmond, Va., law firm as co-counsel in the suit.

"Ending age discrimination in the workplace is a top priority for AARP nationally and certainly here in Virginia," said Bill Kallio, Virginia state director.

The AARP was co-counsel in an age discrimination charge against Ford Motor Co. That case was settled a year ago for $10.6 million.

It is co-counsel in a similar case against Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.

Capital One executives were unavailable for comment Saturday.

The suit alleges Capital One implemented a plan of forced separation that favored young employees and was unfair to employees age 40 and older, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Kallio added: "Older workers are essential to the well being of companies across the country and we cannot tolerate any actions which discriminate against them. Companies that are found to discriminate against older workers could very well find themselves without sufficient numbers of skilled workers to meet the demands of the future."

According to the AARP, more than 50 percent of the nation's 140 million workers are over 40. By 2015, 20 percent will be over 55.

Meanwhile, a motion filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Richmond expanded the time period covered in the suit from Oct. 1, 2001, to the present. The original suit covered just the period from Oct. 1, 2001 to Sept. 20, 2002.

Moreover, the AARP claims that hundreds of older workers are believed to have been injured by Capital One's alleged discriminatory program of job cuts over the last few years.

The Times-Dispatch reported in its Saturday edition that Capital One has said the firings were the result of poor performance. It implemented a forced ranking employee appraisal system that led to the firings.

Under forced ranking, salaried employees are supposedly graded on how well they performed compared to other workers in their department or work groups.

This approach has been used for years by corporations, which have claimed the reviews enable them to weed out unproductive employees.

Harris D. Butler III of Butler, Williams, Pantele and Skilling of Richmond and co-counsel with the AARP, told the newspaper that he expects the judge to rule in the next 90 to 120 days on whether the lawsuit can proceed as a class action.

Based in Falls Church, Va., Capital One Financial is the holding company for Capital One Bank, which offers a variety of credit card and financial services.

For the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2002, total interest income rose 43 percent to $4.1 billion. Net interest income after loan loss provision fell 10 percent to $569.8 million.

However net income rose 40 percent to $899.6 million.

Capital One shares lost 5 cents, or 0.18 percent, to close Friday at $28.25 on moderate volume of more than 4 million shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

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