The lawsuit was brought under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, and charges of discrimination were filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), according to a press release from the employees’ attorneys at Sprenger & Lang.
The first such lawsuit was brought in December 2004, when current and former 3M employees, seeking to represent a potential class exceeding 15,000 current and former salaried 3M employees in Minnesota, alleged age discrimination in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Older workers are fired or forced into retirement or resignation, the plaintiffs allege. The lawsuit alleges that 3M also discriminates against its older employees in training, performance appraisals, pay, and promotions. (See 3M Slapped with Age Discrimination Suit )
Additionally, many 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, the release says.
According to the lawsuits and EEOC charges, 3M’s human resource practices discriminate against older employees, largely from the company’s selection of employees for intensive “Six Sigma” training, a management methodology 3M adopted in 2001. The charges say 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 systemthat assigns older employees lower performance evaluations than younger employees through a forced distribution, or quota, process . The employees allege that older workers have been disproportionately downgraded in this system, with negative effects on promotion, pay, and termination decisions.
Another claim from the employees is that they, and as many as 2,000 other employees over the age of 40 throughout the United States, were persuaded to sign unlawful releases when they were terminated from the company. The employees asked the EEOC to invalidate these documents because they are part of an illegal scheme to insulate 3M from liability for its widespread pattern of age discrimination, the law firm says. Additionally, the plaintiffs say the releases, using confusing and manipulative language, did not inform the employees why they were selected for termination and it prohibited them from filing EEOC charges, in violation of federal law
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.