More than 100 employees laid off last year from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory sued the lab’s ownership on Thursday for age discrimination and other claims.
The Lab laid off around 440 people in May 2008, and 130 of them have joined the suit, according to a press release sent out by Oakland-based Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer, the law firm representing the plaintiffs.
The firm filed one suit (.pdf) on behalf of all 130 former employees, rather than a class action, according to the press release. Randall Strauss, an associate at the firm, said that will allow each ex-employee to make individual claims based on their emotional distress, salary, and other factors.
Strauss declined to speculate on the dollar amount that the employees want for their allegedly illegal termination, but said they earned salaries ranging from $50,000 to $200,000. He said the plaintiffs’ average age is “well into the 50s” and that probably fewer than 10 percent have been able to find a new job.
The complaint alleges, in part, discrimination based on age, race, disability, gender and, in the case of one ex-employee, sexual orientation.
Many of the plaintiffs filed complaints with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing earlier this year, according to The Wall Street Journal, which in a March article analyzed the national rise in allegations of age discrimination.
Attorneys who represent employers told Cal Law around that time that they credited the poor economy and dour forecasts in part for a rise in age-bias claims. The current downturn is unique, said Morrison & Foerster partner Eric Tate, “because no one really knows when it’s going to end.” Tate said that could make laid-off workers more likely to file a discrimination complaint, since prospects of quick re-employment have dimmed.
The complaint filed against Lawrence Livermore alleges that the Lab’s owner, Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (itself co-owned by the Bechtel Corporation and the University of California), didn’t offer enough employees the option to voluntarily resign and contradicted its own policy manual by “regrouping” employees in a way that circumvented their seniority during layoffs.
— Evan Hill