NEWARK, N.J.- LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Nov. 2, 2005–Current and former employees of 3M Company (NYSE: MMM) have broadened the scope of age discrimination litigation against the Minnesota-based corporation by filing a class action lawsuit in New Jersey and charges of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), according to their attorneys at Sprenger & Lang.
In December 2004, a current and a former 3M employee filed a class action age discrimination lawsuit against 3M in state court in St. Paul, Minnesota, alleging violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The proposed class in that case consists of between 5,000 and 10,000 current and former salaried employees who have worked in the State of Minnesota, where about half of 3M’s United States workforce is located, and who did not sign releases of claims when their employment was terminated.
Today, another current 3M employee filed a second age discrimination class action lawsuit in state court in Newark, New Jersey. The suit is brought under that state’s Law Against Discrimination on behalf of about 100 current and former salaried employees who have worked in the State of New Jersey.
In recent weeks, several former employees have filed charges with the EEOC alleging that 3M engaged in a pattern or practice of age discrimination in violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. These employees also claim that 3M persuaded them and as many as 2,000 other employees over the age of 40 throughout the United States to sign unlawful releases when they were terminated from the company. The charges ask the EEOC to invalidate the release because they are used as part of an illegal scheme to insulate 3M from liability for its widespread pattern of age discrimination, and because the releases failed to inform signers why they were selected for termination, prohibited the employees from filing EEOC charges, and used confusing and manipulative language, all in violation of federal law.
The Minnesota and New Jersey lawsuits and the federal EEOC charges allege consistent patterns of age discrimination at 3M. According to these legal documents, 3M has intentionally discriminated against older employees in performance appraisals, training, promotions, pay and terminations, largely through HR practices adopted since 2001. These include selecting younger employees for training as Black Belts and Master Black Belts in 3M’s newly-initiated Six Sigma program, assigning older employees lower performance evaluations than younger employees through a forced distribution, or quota, process, and using the lower performance ratings to discriminate against older employees in promotions and compensation and to justify their termination.
Michael Lieder, a partner in the law firm of Sprenger & Lang, stated: “We believe that 3M engaged in a concerted effort to disadvantage and terminate its older employees and that 3M’s discrimination was directed and encouraged by high-level employees in its corporate headquarters. Because of this, we expect to see consistent patterns of discrimination throughout 3M locations in the United States. As we continue to receive contacts from current and former employees, we anticipate filing other actions in other states throughout the country, as well as additional EEOC charges.”
Sprenger & Lang is working with the litigation section of the AARP Foundation on the Minnesota case and the federal charges, and the Newark-based law firm of Reitman Parsonnet P.C. on the New Jersey case.
The issues raised in these actions are much broader than these lawsuits. Dan Kohrman of AARP explained, “We know of many companies using forced distribution systems and programs such as Six Sigma. Although neither is necessarily discriminatory, many companies use them to the disadvantage of older employees. And the releases used by many other companies share the deficiencies in 3M’s form release. If they were properly informed of their rights, many persons over 40 might challenge the validity of releases they signed and ultimately challenge their termination and other discrimination.”
According to its company website, 3M is a diversified technology company with worldwide sales of $20.011 billion and more than 67,000 employees. For more information about the case, please visit www.minnesotaclassaction.com.
ABOUT SPRENGER & LANG
Sprenger & Lang, with offices in Minneapolis and Washington, DC, has obtained some of the country’s largest gender, age, and race discrimination and ERISA judgments on behalf of tens of thousands of employees. Sprenger & Lang has successfully represented classes of plaintiffs against companies such as American Express Financial Advisors, CBS, Northwest Airlines, First Union, Amtrak, and Ceridian Corporation. It represented the plaintiffs in the first sexual harassment class action that inspired the recently opened movie, “North Country.” For more information about the firm, please visit http://www.sprengerlang.com.
ABOUT REITMAN PARSONNET
Reitman Parsonnet, P.C. is a Newark, New Jersey law firm with a seventy-five year tradition of representing employees and unions. The firm has pursued thousand of cases challenging discriminatory treatment and in support of the right to a fair workplace. It practices before both state and federal trial and appellate courts and a wide range of administrative agencies and arbitrators.
Sprenger & Lang, PLLC
Michael Lieder, 202-772-1159
Reitman Parsonnet, P.C.
Bennet Zurofsky, 973-642-0885