Former Employees Sue General Mills For Age Discrimination

A lawsuit alleges the company was more likely to let go of older employees during a recent round of layoffs.

Former Employees Sue General Mills For Age Discrimination
A group of former employees are suing General Mills for what they say was age discrimination during layoffs over a year ago.
The suit—filed by 29 former employees—alleges that older employees were more likely to be terminated during the company’s “Project Catalyst,” an initiative in late 2014 and early 2015 that involved the company finding efficiencies and laying off about 800 workers.
Based on statistical evidence, the plaintiffs allege that the chance of the pattern of layoffs occurring the way they did was 0.000000000000022 percent (or 2.2 multiplied by 10 to the -16th power), a number that would be “statistically significant” to professional statisticians.
The suit noted that the risk of termination rose as employees got older. While those in their twenties had only a 1.7 percent chance of being laid off, employees age 60 and older had a 22.1 percent chance of being laid off.
“[The layoffs] are not rational,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Stephen Snyder of Snyder & Brandt P.A. “It’s based on stereotypes of older employees, not on the actual merits.”
This is not the only litigation pending against General Mills for age discrimination. The same law firm representing these 29 former employees is also representing another group who were laid off in an earlier restructuring called “Project Refuel.”
That case is still tied up in appeals after General Mills said that former employees had to submit their claims to individual arbitration. Chief Judge John Tunheim of the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis rejected that argument.
General Mills responded to today’s lawsuit saying, “We are aware of the lawsuit and these claims. The claims are related to a restructuring that occurred more than a year ago. The company stands by its employment decisions and sees no merit in these claims.”
If the plaintiffs are successful, they’d be entitled to be “made whole,” which includes back-pay and returning to their old positions. If they could not return, they’d be entitled to back-pay and “front-pay,” which would include damages for the difficulty they’d face in finding another jobs. Such a result would likely be “in the millions [of dollars],” Snyder said.  
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