Many people who see loyalty as an admirable trait will give their entire working life to a company. However, corporations don't always value dedication and loyalty if it conflicts with the bottom line. Employees with a stellar performance history may all of a sudden find that they are facing a layoff, through no fault of their own. In some cases, these companies basing layoff decisions on the employee's age rather than merit. Now, General Mills is facing multiple federal employment lawsuits based on alleged age discrimination.
General Mills began as a flour mill, and has since become one of the world's largest consumer food manufacturers and marketers. The company employs more than 40,000 people around the world. However, during restructuring in 2012 and 2014, the company decided to lay off thousands of employees. Now those employees are claiming that the company violated federal age discrimination laws, and are taking General Mills to court.
Under federal law, employees and applicants who are 40 years of age or older are protected from discrimination based on their age. Under state law, older employees and applicants are similarly protected by the Illinois Human Rights Act.
The most recent former employee lawsuit is based on the 2014 restructuring plan called “Project Catalyst,” resulting in the termination of more than 3,000 employees. However, former employees are claiming that those layoffs were not applied fairly across the company. Instead, employees who were age 40 or older were three times more likely to be terminated than younger employees.
In some cases, the employees were asked to train their younger replacements, before they were let go. The former employees also claim that they applied for other positions with the company, but were also not selected for those jobs. General Mills has not admitted any wrongdoing, saying they stand by their employment decisions.
Earlier this year, almost 40 former employees joined in another lawsuit against General Mills relating to a prior round of layoffs from 2012, known as “Project Refuel.” According to the workers' attorney, both of the layoffs show, “a very, very strong correlation statistically between being older and being fired. The statistical correlation is the strongest in this case than in any of the cases I've handled.”
Most of the employees were required to waive their legal claims, and have any disputes heard individually through arbitration if they wanted to receive their severance pay. However, in an early victory, a federal judge ruled that the case should be heard in federal court, and not as separate arbitration hearings..
If you have been fired or laid off, you may suspect your employer is discriminating against you because of your age. You should consider speaking with an Illinois discrimination attorney to make sure your rights are protected. Discrimination can affect anyone, based on their age, sex, or race. Our attorneys have successfully represented clients in age discrimination claims throughout the state of Illinois. If you have suffered physical, financial or emotional injury, contact your experienced Illinois discrimination attorneys at Benassi & Benassi.