Age bias settlement totals $14 million Laid-off employees of Westinghouse in Md. filed suit

Employment

November 01, 1997|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Westinghouse Electric Corp. and Northrop Grumman will pay $14 million to settle age discrimination suits filed by 807 former Westinghouse workers in Maryland, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said yesterday.

The settlement, which ends several legal cases filed privately by workers and by the EEOC, involves workers who were laid off between 1991 and 1996 at Westinghouse's Linthicum and Hunt Valley plants.

Northrop Grumman was involved in the settlement because it acquired Westinghouse's defense electronics operations, including the Linthicum and Hunt Valley facilities, last year for $3.6 billion. Northrop agreed to assume limited financial responsibility for the lawsuits settled yesterday when it bought the state's largest manufacturing employer.

The settlement was approved by Judge Marvin J. Garbis in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Arlene Shadoan, the EEOC's lead attorney in the legal actions, which were combined by a federal judge, said the settlement involves 259 workers in two lawsuits, and another 548 workers whose complaints the agency was still investigating.

The workers had charged Westinghouse with a "pattern and practice of discrimination against older employees," claiming that "Westinghouse intentionally selected the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for termination based on their age, their higher salaries, their pension eligibility, or some combination of these factors."

The lawsuits said the plaintiffs ranged in age from their 40s to their 60s.

The suits also alleged that Westinghouse, while it was laying off older workers or forcing them to retire, had:

Kept, and, in some instances, promoted less-qualified younger employees.

Hired or attempted to hire younger employees to perform the same work as older workers who were laid off or involuntarily retired.

Transferred younger employees to departments in which older employees were about to be, or had been, laid off, involuntarily retired or demoted.

The EEOC, which filed its lawsuit in 1993, said: "The older workers were highly qualified, generally more qualified than the younger workers which Westinghouse retained."

To adjust to sharp cuts in military spending, Westinghouse, and later, Northrop Grumman, eliminated nearly 10,000 jobs in Maryland since 1991, as its total employment dropped to 7,300 from about 17,000.

Northrop spokesman Jack Martin, said yesterday that the company "had no comment beyond the release" issued jointly by the companies and the EEOC.

EEOC Chairman Gilbert Cassellas and Baltimore District Director Issie Jenkins said the settlement would provide "important relief" to claimants.

If the settlement is divided equally, it would amount to slightly more than $17,000 per worker, not accounting for any lawyer's fees.

Some of the former Westinghouse workers were earning $70,000 or more a year. Three years later, some reported that they had not found new jobs or had to settle for jobs paying far less than their previous salaries.

In the settlement, neither Westinghouse nor Northrop admitted to any wrongdoing.

Pub Date: 11/01/97

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