3M to Pay $3M to Settle Age Bias Suit

August 22, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Global technology giant 3M has agreed to pay $3 million to a class of former employees to resolve a nationwide age discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC’s suit charged that 3M unlawfully laid off hundreds of employees over the age of 45 during a series of reductions in force (RIFs) from July 1, 2003, through December 31, 2006. 3M laid off many highly paid older employees, among others, apparently to save money and cut workers in salaried positions up to the level of director, the agency said.   

The EEOC also asserted that older employees were denied leadership training and laid off to make way for younger leaders. The agency’s investigation found an employee e-mail describing then-CEO Jim McNerney’s “vision for leadership development” as “we should be developing 30 year-olds with General Manager potential” and “He wants us to tap into the youth as participants in the leadership development.”  

Pending judicial approval, the consent decree provides that 3M will pay the $3 million in monetary relief to approximately 290 former employees. In addition, 3M has agreed to implement a review process for termination decisions and training on how to prevent age bias. The company will also post openings for positions it had not advertised previously, to enable older employees to apply. 3M will report on its compliance, provide RIF information to the EEOC over the next three years, and post a notice about the settlement.   

The case was developed cooperatively with the law firm of Sprenger + Lang of Washington, D.C., which earlier filed age discrimination suits covering additional issues against 3M in Minnesota state and federal courts. In the state court case, Whitaker et al. v. 3M, the parties filed a settlement agreement in March 2011, which is pending final court approval, on behalf of about 7,000 current and former employees (see 3M Accused of Age Discrimination). The federal case was filed on behalf of about 135 people, most of whom are ex-employees. The 290 ex-employees eligible for relief in the EEOC case are not eligible for relief under either of the private suits.  

Another age discrimination case against 3M was filed in a state court in New Jersey (see Age Discrimination Claim Is Brought Against 3M).