3M Accused of Age Discrimination

May 5, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Current and former employees of 3M Company have filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California alleging age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Sprenger + Lang, AARP Foundation Litigation, and Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen & Dardarian reported that the potential class of plaintiffs includes more than 6,000 current and former 3M employees, including approximately 50 men and women who have already opted in to the lawsuit. The complaint alleges that since at least 2001 3M intentionally has discriminated against employees over age 46 in performance appraisals, training, promotions and pay because it perceives them as unwilling or unable to accept or adequately implement the company’s new management techniques. In addition, 3M fires or forces these older employees into retirement or resignation, the complaint alleges, according to Sprenger + Lang.

In addition, the law firm says that to try to shield itself from liability for its discrimination, 3M has caused departing employees to sign releases that misrepresent their rights and fail to give them required information necessary to determine whether they have been the victims of age discrimination.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that age discrimination at 3M stems largely from the company’s selection of persons for intensive “Six Sigma” training, a management methodology 3M adopted in 2001. According to the complaint, 3M selects very few persons over age 45 for training as Six Sigma “Black Belts” or “Master Black Belts” compared to their presence in the workforce, and selection gives younger employees huge advantages in subsequent employment decisions.

The plaintiffs claim that 3M also discriminates against older employees by using a performance appraisal system requiring lower ratings for a preset percentage of employees in each business unit, even if the objective quality of their work is higher than reflected by the rating. The complaint alleges that older workers have been disproportionately downgraded in this system, with negative effects on promotion, pay, and termination decisions, according to the announcement.

Sprenger + Lang, along with AARP Foundation Litigation in Ramsey County, Minnesota, have filed a similar complaint on behalf of current and former Minnesota employees of 3M. According to the attorneys, the judge in that case certified a class of older workers, noting that the evidence “strongly suggests a consistent pattern across 3M’s business units of disparities suffered by older employees in each of the human resources practices challenged.”

Sprenger + Lang asserts that the practices in place at 3M in Minnesota are identical to those at the company’s other locations. “3M has shown a pattern of unlawful discriminatory behavior across multiple states in which it operates, and we will aggressively pursue justice for each of the affected employees,” said Steven Sprenger of Sprenger + Lang, counsel for the plaintiffs, in the announcement.

More information about the case is at www.ageclassaction.com .