3M Settles Minnesota Age Discrimination Case

August 24, 2011

Technology giant 3M has agreed to pay a total of $3 million to several hundred former employees who accused the company of age discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Monday.

The EEOC sued 3M in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis on behalf of a class of former employees who said the company laid off hundreds of workers over the age of 45 from July 1, 2003, to Dec. 31, 2006. The lawsuit alleged 3M terminated many highly paid older employees and directed leadership training to younger workers.

The agency said its investigation found an employee email describing then-CEO Jim McNerney’s “vision for leadership development” as “we should be developing 30 year olds with General Manager potential.”

A consent decree, which needs judicial approval, said 3M will pay $3 million to about 290 former employees. The company must also provide training for managers and supervisors on how to prevent age bias, according to the EEOC’s Michael Baldonado. It will also establish a review process for termination decisions.

Those involved in the EEOC case are not eligible for relief under two private lawsuits filed by a Washington D.C. law firm on behalf of thousands of current and former employees. Those age discrimination lawsuits were settled for $12 million in April.

“The law requires employers to base employment decisions upon each person’s strengths and talents instead of relying upon generalized assumptions calculated around an employee’s age,” Baldonado said.

The settlement was a compromise that prevents the company from investing any more time and money in litigation, said 3M spokeswoman Donna Runyon.

“It is not an admission of any liability. We deny the allegations in the lawsuit,” Runyon said.

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