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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Age discrimination lawsuit

Anonymously contributed:

130 Former Lawrence Livermore Lab Employees File Lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court Alleging Illegal Age Discrimination


OAKLAND, Calif., May 21 /PRNewswire/ -- On May 21, 2009, the Law Firm of Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer filed an age discrimination lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court Case Number 09453596 on behalf of 130 former employees against Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (LLNS) , the private company co-owned by Bechtel and the University of California that operates the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

On May 22 and 23, 2008, LLNS laid off approximately 440 employees, the vast majority of whom were the Lab's most senior, experienced employees. California law prohibits discrimination in the workplace against any employee who is over the age of 40 years old, based upon that employee's age. 130 of those employees have retained Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer to challenge the layoffs. These former Lab employees include administrative assistants, maintenance workers, engineers and senior scientists. The 130 employees filed one lawsuit, but are seeking damages based upon their individual circumstances. These are consolidated cases; it is not a class action lawsuit.

The former employees contend that they were selected by the Lab to lose their jobs because they were older workers (over 40) who were approaching their retirement age. As a result, these former employees are out of work at a stage in life when finding new employment is particularly challenging. Most of these workers have suffered a severe financial hit in the amount of retirement income and benefits they will eventually receive because of their forced, premature "retirement."

The laid off workers contend that the Layoff selection process utilized by the Lab was illegal. The former employees contend that the Lab did not follow Federal Law by seeking voluntary separations to eliminate the need for any layoffs.

Furthermore, approximately 94% of those laid off were over the age of 40, making them "protected employees" pursuant to California's anti-age discrimination laws. The Lab ignored its own polices to target these older workers because of their advanced salaries and approaching retirements.

Today, these targeted older workers are fighting back by filing this lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court.

According to J. Gary Gwilliam, lead counsel for the former employees, "It's unfortunate that the Lawrence Livermore Lab, the University of California and Bechtel Corporation would treat their employees in a discriminatory manner. I don't think the Department of Energy, with whom they contract, would approve of such conduct. These entities should be setting the highest standards of fairness in the workplace, not the lowest. We are confident the Court will correct this obvious injustice."

In addition, several different plaintiffs allege different kinds of discrimination including race, gender, disability, family leave rights and sexual orientation as well as retaliation. The complaint also alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract and the breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

CONTACTS: For more information and a copy of the complaint please contact J. Gary Gwilliam, Esq., Randall E. Strauss, Esq., Jane Felice Gorelick

Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer, A Prof Corp.
1999 Harrison Street, Oakland, California
(510) 832-5411

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Age discrimination is extremely hard to prove ... Given managers and supervisors are at least smart enough to not put things (related to age discrimination) in writing ... any idea how or what approach(s) lawyer will prove age discrimination (given LLNS is now private, and information is hard to come by ...)

Anonymous said...

You do not need the law of gravity in writing. Numbers dont lie. If a good majority of people are over 55, that will be the proof.

Anonymous said...

Additionally, information may be hard to come by for the public at large, but when the courts get involved, the only defense for not releasing info would be national security. Let's see them try that here.

And, no age discrimination is not all that hard to prove. The numbers will speak for themselves. What will be interesting is how LLNS tries to justify the numbers. Many of the laid off were maneuvered into the lower/lowest peer groups in the years leading up to the RIF, despite the fact of never getting a negative review. The scuttlebutt going around prior to the layoff was that HR would be very careful to assure that no group was singled out to avoid such legal actions. Given the competence of many of their other efforts, I have little faith that they succeeded.

Anonymous said...

This is more about perception than proof; some juries do not like corporations or big business. Yes, it will be hard to prove, but not impossible, and LLNS would be exposed to a potential multimillion dollar judgment. If it is not summarily dismissed, I believe that there will be a settlement. Of course that will be 1 to 3 years from now.
LLNS’s plan might be to hold the lawsuit off long enough to get as much bonus money for the ULM as possible, then disband the limit liability company and let DOE pick up the tab. I am not sure if it would work, but I would not put it past them.
BTW-people who are part of the lawsuit should not write to this or any blog. These things have a way of showing up in court, especially in a civil court of law.
Good luck

Anonymous said...

This thing will likely be settled out of court. The lawyers on both sides will take a big fee and the affected employees will be offered some money to keep quiet and just go away (say, about $20K each).

If they don't take the cash, they'll be told this thing could be stuck in the courts for many years. Most of them will decide to take the money and sign on the dotted line to never sue LLNS again. Being unemployed, they badly need the extra cash to survive.

Anonymous said...

"If a good majority of people are over 55, that will be the proof"

IF
[majority of the LLNL employees are over 55],
And
[group of laid off employees]= [majority of people over 55]

… it does NOT follow that there’s age discrimination.

Gets back to: what are the numbers, and what can you prove with the given set of numbers
(assuming you're using 'numbers' to prove age. disc.)

Anonymous said...

"It is also illegal for an employer to discriminate against one older worker in favor of another older worker. A recent trend has been for employers to lay off workers in their 50s, in favor of workers in their 40s, based partly on age. Although both workers are covered by the ADEA, this is still age discrimination."

Anonymous said...

The suit claims that 94% of those laid off were over 40. Is that 94% of the 130 who filed or 94% of the 400+ who were laid off.

From the unofficial list of people I saw that were laid off, I don't see how that 94% figure can be claimed, unless a large number of those with under 10 years of service started at the lab in their 30's.

Anonymous said...

If the average age at the laboratory is 51, how does it affect the equation?

Anonymous said...

http://www.scotuswiki.com/index.php?title=Meacham_v._Knolls_Atomic_Power_Laboratory#Press

Anonymous said...

How can it be discrimination when it seems that EVERYONE at the lab is over 40? Get real.

Anonymous said...

re June 5, 2009 2:33 PM: Maybe everyone is over 40 where you work but not where I used to work. In my former division, the laid-off people were indeed older than average, and older than the division leader.

Anonymous said...

"The suit claims that 94% of those laid off were over 40. Is that 94% of the 130 who filed or 94% of the 400+ who were laid off."

I don't have the data, but it seems like the 130 should all be over 40 years of age, else they should not be filing 'age discrimination'... Therefore(?) the 94% should be of the 440 total. Can anyone confirm this ?

Anonymous said...

Overall, the Lab population is old. Therefore it is not surprising that many of those ISP'd were also old.

There were some mistakes. Comp Div. Ldrs had no idea what their people did. Too many real workers (e.g., gardners) were whacked while useless bureaucrats and compliance Nazis missed the axe.

Bottom line, however, is that most of those who were laid off deserved it, and the Lab is a better place without them.

Anonymous said...

"The suit claims that 94% of those laid off were over 40. Is that 94% of the 130 who filed or 94% of the 400+ who were laid off.

From the unofficial list of people I saw that were laid off, I don't see how that 94% figure can be claimed, unless a large number of those with under 10 years of service started at the lab in their 30's."

From WSJ, March 11, 2009
"More Workers Cite Age Bias After Layoff"....
...
"The laboratory denies claims of age discrimination. The lab says that of the 440 employees laid off in May, 85% were older than 40. The average age of its 6,800-strong core work force is 49, and 85% of its current employees are older than 40, according to the lab"

Anonymous said...

"Bottom line, however, is that most of those who were laid off deserved it, and the Lab is a better place without them."

Amen

Anonymous said...

Pre ISP the lab had an older average age staff, still do post ISP. The majority of the layoffs made the lab better. Some good folk were lost. I have seen three folk returned so far...IMHO 2 losers and one good egg.....are we past the term for preferential re-hire?

Anonymous said...

I see that age discrimination is the basis of this suit for most of these people.And if thier allegations are correct, they deserve a settlement, no matter if they deserved to be laid off or not.At the very least, the Lab is going to be shelling out millions in legal fees, and the negative publicity this suit will generate won't help Bechtel's cause either, but I have a feeling that they will not care one way or another. But what of those Union members who were laid off (those skilled craftsmen in plant) before a contract was negotiated? Everytime a question is asked about this, we see this drivel about the age discrimination suit. Since the union was officially recognised, it WAS illegal for them to be subject to layoff before a contract was negotiated. This fact seems to be side-stepped everytime the question is asked. So I will ask it again, what is the union doing about it? seems like nothing to me, like I said earlier, they have the contract ( albeit a very unusually short contract at that) and who cares about the ones who got screwed? I know you are hearing UPTE!! UPTE!! organize!! But if I were you I would wait and see what happends to those few who were screwed over, when they had so-called "protection" by signing a union card. How the union takes care of its smaller supporters will show how much of what they say is pure BS or not.

Anonymous said...

The silence from the union(s) is deafening . . .

Anonymous said...

The layoffs were not just about age. They targeted anyone who they felt undesirable. They could have been stellar employees. In a politcally controlled environment such as LLNL, employee productivity does not matter.
Did you ever go to medical for a heart condition? Challenge a boss over a job assignment? Maybe you just didn't dress well enough. These kinds of things would have put you on the list.

Anonymous said...

"The layoffs were not just about age. They targeted anyone who they felt undesirable."

The layoff were not about either age or undesirabilty. Except for the some mistakes, they were about not needing those people.

In general, the Lab got rid of its dead wood.

Anonymous said...

Hey June 13, 2009 7:42 am

Your claim that the Lab got rid of its dead wood is all wrong. By making a statement like that you are stating that you know all or the vast majority of the 440 employees that were laid off in May, their work history, what type of performance appraisals they received from their managers, etc.

I happen to know many of the 130people that have joined the lawsuit. In some work groups, older employees that had excellent work records and had 25 to 34 years of dedicated service to LLNL were kicked out the gate while the younger employees with less seniority got to stay. Many have not been able to find decent employment due to their age. Employers like to hire younger workers.

Age discrimination is against the law and it will be proved in court that in fact age discrimination did occur in some work groups in May 2008.

Anonymous said...

"it will be proved in court that in fact age discrimination did occur in some work groups in May 2008"

Do you have any actual FACTS to
prove age discrmination ?
I don't have any stats or data ...
But if they have the claim of 94% over 40 being laid off ... it is not necessary discriminatory IF 94% of total employees are over 40 (I'm not saying that's the case, but what are the facts ??? )

Anonymous said...

Stop phishing for information your not going to get it. This drama will be tried in court not by public opinion.

Anonymous said...

"Stop phishing for information your not going to get it."

There's no attempt to steal any personal information (definition
of phishing). Merely asking for
public facts or information.

"This drama will be tried in court not by public opinion."

In total agreement. Not after opinion ... but only facts.

Anonymous said...

A Supreme Court ruling issued this week states that plaintiffs have to clearly prove that their employer was actively practicing a form of age discrimination.

The burden of proof in future cases has been shifted to the plaintiff (employee), and not the defendant (employer).

Anonymous said...

Is it illegal for a corporate to fire persons in management positions and with the company for 20-26+ years with no prior complaints and good if not outstanding performance appraisals and allow a junior person, who was in charge of 3 people now be put in charge of a department of 60?

Anonymous said...

I recognized names of people lab departments wanted to get rid of for years, this layoff was the perfect salution. Yet, there are many who were valued employees and it was a decision of managers job or theirs.

Attorney's need to look at employee's yearly evaluations and who made the layoff decisions.

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