Five former employees of Hewlett Packard sued the company for illegal age discrimination related to their termination during a Workforce Restructuring Initiative. They argued that the initiative intentionally targeted older workers for replacement by younger employees. This is illegal under both federal and state laws. Thus, the employees sued HP in a federal court in California. HP responded by arguing that the initiative responded legitimately to the financial pressures facing HP at the time.
The plaintiffs ultimately sought conditional collective certification, which would allow other former HP employees to join them in claims based on the same circumstances. Last week, the court granted preliminary certification to two classes of employees who were terminated by HP entities. Conditional certification does not provide independent legal status to a class, nor does it automatically add more parties to the litigation. Instead, it simply allows court-approved written notice to other similarly situated employees so that they can decide whether to join the case as individuals. In granting certification, the court applied rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which are incorporated in the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. These are more lenient than the class certification requirements under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. As long as the members of the class are similarly situated, a court can grant conditional certification. The judge in this case decided that the declarations submitted by four of the five former employees met this standard, considering the detail provided by the complaint.
This is not the only court in which HP is facing litigation based on alleged age discrimination. The tech giant is facing an age discrimination lawsuit in a federal court in Georgia, which was filed by an HP employee toward the end of last year. HP has sought to force the dispute into arbitration or dismiss the case altogether. The Georgia federal court has not yet ruled on whether and how the case will proceed.
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