Federal government sues Meathead Movers alleging age discrimination



Meathead Movers—the moving company headquartered in San Luis Obispo that emphasizes athleticism—is in a federal agency's crosshairs over alleged age discrimination.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Meathead Movers in September for reportedly intentionally not hiring people aged 40 and older since at least 2017.

DODGING CLAIMS Meathead Movers CEO Aaron Steed said that his company doesn’t discriminate in terms of gender, age, race, or sexuality, adding that working for his company as a mover and packer involves jogging when not carrying things around. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MEATHEAD MOVERS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Meathead Movers
  • DODGING CLAIMS Meathead Movers CEO Aaron Steed said that his company doesn’t discriminate in terms of gender, age, race, or sexuality, adding that working for his company as a mover and packer involves jogging when not carrying things around.

Started by high schoolers Aaron Steed and his brother in 1997, the earliest version of Meathead Movers tapped into the duo's physical prowess as athletes. The Steeds' fledgling business expanded to recruit friends from the wrestling and football teams before they graduated. Now led by Aaron Steed as the CEO, Meathead Movers also operates offices in Oxnard, Santa Ana, Fresno, Bakersfield, and Temecula—often employing young and athletic college students as movers.

Steed told New Times on Dec. 26 that the lawsuit was only a partial surprise, especially because the EEOC has been eyeing Meathead Movers since 2017.

"In 2017, we got a letter from the EEOC, and they said that they want to investigate us for age discrimination. We sent that over to our attorney at the time," Steed said. "He said, 'Don't worry at all. This is not a big deal. I've vetted your hiring and recruiting practices. You guys are completely aboveboard.'"

But the EEOC disagreed with Steed's former attorney. Roughly two years after Meathead Movers cooperated with the investigation, the federal government slapped them with a $15 million demand to settle the case. Since then, numerous mediations between the parties have failed and the EEOC hasn't budged. With the conflict escalating to litigation, Steed faces the prospect of his company going bankrupt.

"What's so mind-boggling here is that there wasn't even a complaint filed against us," he said. "No person that has worked for us or has interviewed or has applied, raised their hand, and said, 'I've been discriminated against.' ... The EEOC brought this on by themselves, and it's a mystery why they did."

The lawsuit alleges that hiring officials repeatedly told older applicants who didn't make the cut that Meathead Movers only hires "'young' people or 'college-aged' students and athletes." Further, it claimed that the moving company excluded qualified applicants of a certain age from moving, packing, and customer service positions.

The EEOC's complaint detailed a section of interview notes jotted down by a hiring official.

"'I feel like [she] is very qualified for the position,'" read the official's note according to the lawsuit. "'Her prior experience would suggest she will excel in her position here. I do think she is a little intimidated by the age of the employees who work here. And although I personally think it is immoral/unethical[,] I do not think she is a good cultural fit because of her age.' (emphasis added)."

Steed told New Times he's unaware of a hiring manager writing such notes.

"I don't know what they're talking about," he said. "That completely goes against our company's culture, our training, who we are, and what we're all about. I'd love to see and review what they're [the EEOC] talking about, and actually work with them on that, but we've never been able to actually discuss that with them."

The CEO added that Meathead Movers' administration including the customer services department has employees in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and even one who's 70 years old. They belong to the 320-member workforce that's spread across six locations.

"The EEOC's actions ... [are] threatening 320 families' livelihoods as unemployment is going up, as inflation is going up." Steed said.

Working as a mover and packer for Meathead Movers involves strenuous labor. The website claimed that applicants are screened through multiple interviews and background checks before being hired. Then, the company pays each employee to observe newcomers while they carry out moving services to uphold high work standards. Meathead Movers also enrolls every mover and packer into "Meathead University" to receive a "military-inspired training program with over 400 procedures."

"We move heavy things [like] dressers, ... beds, ... couches up and down stairs," Steed said. "Whenever we're not moving anything, the job standard at Meathead Movers is to then run to get more ... all while having a great upbeat attitude for our clients and treating them like gold."

At 43, Steed is a champion wrestler and told New Times he still occasionally carries out moves for the company because he can meet the job standards.

"If anyone over the age of 40 wants to accommodate that job description, they're more than welcome to apply," he said. "They have to also be able to pass a drug test. They have to be able to pass a criminal background screening."

The lawsuit hasn't deterred Meathead Movers' public image. Steed said his business hasn't declined. Many in the local community praised the company on social media platforms like Nextdoor, where they drew attention to Meathead Movers' work with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Steed's GoFundMe page. The online fundraiser had raked in $22,141 of its $500,000 target as of press time.

Steed hopes to use those funds to pay for attorney costs while he fights the EEOC's lawsuit. Meathead Movers must respond to the federal government's complaint by Feb. 1.

"This is a witch hunt to try to put us out of business," Steed said. "We've had forensic CPAs affirm that that would put me out of business. This is a government attempt to eradicate a small business." Δ


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