3M Slapped with Age Discrimination Suit

December 21, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - 3M Company has intentionally discriminated against employees over age 45 in performance appraisals, training, promotions and pay because it perceives them as not embracing the company's new management techniques.

That was the allegation contained in a lawsuit filed by current and former 3M employees alleging age discrimination in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, according to a news release from plaintiffs’ law firm Sprenger & Lang. Older workers are fired or forced into retirement or resignation, the plaintiffs allege. The suit seeks to represent a potential class exceeding 15,000 current and former salaried 3M employees in Minnesota.

The lawsuit alleges that 3M also discriminates against its older employees in training, performance appraisals, pay, and promotions. According to the suit, the age discrimination at 3M stems largely from the company’s selection of employees for intensive “Six Sigma” training, a management methodology 3M adopted in 2001.

The suit said 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 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.