When 'downsizing', some companies will engage in the illegal practice of terminating older, better paid workers and retaining the younger ones who are paid less. This obviously saves the company an extra wad of money but at the same time puts in a shambles the lives of many who devoted their working lives to the ungrateful company. In California, the practice is illegal and constitutes wrongful termination under state and federal law.
Age discrimination is one of the illegal practices prohibited by both federal and state anti-discrimination statutes. In California, a jury in Alameda County last month awarded $2.7 million to five former employees of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. They were terminated back in 2008 as part of a new contractual relationship with Bechtel Corp., a private contractor, and the University of California.
There were about 130 employees claiming wrongful termination, and five of them sued. Another 125 wait in the wings, and if a settlement is not obtained, lawyers have indicated further litigation will proceed. However, the five winners are involved in a 'multi-tiered' litigation so that their case will first move on to other issues being litigated and could bring in additional compensation.
Reportedly, the abuses by the employer were as flagrant as pink-slipping a lab worker with 38 years of experience and retaining a co-worker with just 15 months. The jury's award to the five former employees consisted of amounts ranging from $242,000 to $853,000, which represented mainly lost wages since the 2008 termination. These awards did not include emotional distress and punitive damages, so that the economic toll of the employer's illegalities could be far more costly in the next stage of the trial.
California has a relatively strong wrongful termination statute that protects employees from discrimination and unfair treatment. It supplements the body of federal civil rights and anti-discrimination statutes that protect workers. In some instances, state law may provide relief not recognized in the federal statutes. If you're facing any kind of employment discrimination or unfair treatment at work, or have a wrongful termination claim, you'll be best served by consulting with employment law professionals who can explain your rights and discuss your options.
Source: lawyersandsettlements.com, "$2.7 Million Awarded in California Wrongful Termination Damages," Gordon Gibb, June 8, 2013