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Nuclear laboratory settles age bias suit for $37.3 million

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The nuclear laboratory in Livermore, California, has reached a $37.3 million settlement in a longtime age discrimination lawsuit brought by former workers following a May 2008 staff reduction.

The settlement in Elaine Andrews et al. v. Lawrence Livermore National Security L.L.C. et al.covers 129 of the 130 workers who sued, and the remaining plaintiff is continuing the litigation, the operator of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said Wednesday in a statement.

The government-owned but independently operated facility could not be reached for additional comment.

According to the 2009 complaint filed with Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland, California, the limited liability company took over management in 2007 of the facility funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

At that time, the lab had a $1.6 billion budget and a staff of 6,800, according to the complaint. The company decided to reduce its operating expenses by laying off about 750 employees.

Although the company had layoff procedures in its personnel policy manual, “business units and layoff units were created in a way that (the company) could target older workers for layoff by circumventing” the manual’s procedures, according to the complaint.

In October 2012, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert B. Freedman ruled that the 130 plaintiffs could go to trial.

In 2013, five plaintiffs’ cases were litigated in separate jury trials, according to the company’s statement.

The first trial, which alleged breach of the plaintiffs’ employment contracts, resulted in an award of $2.73 million for the plaintiffs. The laboratory prevailed in the second trial, which alleged it discriminated against older employees in making layoff decisions, according to the company.

While both jury verdicts were on appeal and with Judge Freedman’s encouragement, the parties engaged in months of mediation that resulted in the $37.3 million settlement announced Wednesday.

The laboratory continues to deny any wrongdoing in connection with the 2008 reduction in force.