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EEOC lawsuit accuses Mattress Firm of age discrimination

LAS VEGAS — Bedding retailer Mattress Firm has been accused of age discrimination in its Las Vegas stores in a lawsuit filed this week by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The suit accuses the Top 100 retailer of systematically inducing salespeople over age 40 to resign by holding them to higher standards than younger workers, denying them opportunities for promotion and forcing them to engage in demanding physical labor without assistance.

The six former employees who initiated the EEOC complaint were working for Las Vegas retailer Bedtime Mattress when it was acquired by Mattress Firm in March 2007. The suit says almost all of the existing staff in the Las Vegas stores was over age 40 at the time of the acquisition, but within five months, only 25% of the staff was that age.

Shortly after the acquisition, the suit claims Mattress Firm intentionally reduced older employees' sales commissions by overstaffing the stores with younger salespeople from stores in other states.

The younger workers were paid a salary plus commissions, but older employees - most of whom were store managers - were paid on commissions only, the suit says.

In addition, the suit says Mattress Firm did not allow older employees to attend a week-long Mattress Firm University training course at the retailer's Houston headquarters, but permitted younger Las Vegas employees to go. Older workers attended a "less comprehensive" two-day training program in Las Vegas, according to the suit.

The EEOC claims at least two of the six employees initiating the complaint were demoted from store manager to assistant store manager and replaced with younger workers.

Mattress Firm officials did not respond to a request for comment.

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