Sprint Settles Age Discrimination Suits for $57M

September 18, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A U.S. District judge has approved a $57 million settlement resolving claims that Sprint Nextel Corp. targeted older workers during companywide layoffs.

The Associated Press reports the lawsuit, filed in 2003, alleges then-Sprint Corp. illegally moved employees who were 40 years or older to positions that were then eliminated as part of the company’s efforts to scale back. The company denied the allegation, but said it decided on a settlement to save on legal expenses.

The settlement covers 1,697 former employees laid off between October 2001 and March 2003, according to the AP. The plaintiffs will split the settlement money less about $21 million for legal fees and expenses, receiving between $4,226 and $35,738 each, depending on a settlement scale.

In November 2006, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling in which the trial judge blocked witness testimony under the same-supervisor rule. That rule limits evidence to comparison of a supervisor’s disciplinary action with other actions of the same supervisor against other employees.

In that case a former Sprint employee asserted that the company’s November 2002 reduction-in-force was unfairly targeted against older workers and violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) (See Sprint Employee Prevails in Appellate Court ADEA Ruling ).

The U.S. Supreme Court in June agreed to hear the case to determine if employees trying to prove discrimination in the workplace have to limit themselves to co-workers with the same supervisor when presenting witnesses in court (See Supreme Court to Hear Sprint ADEA Case ).