Employment lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that the first five plaintiffs in the Lawrence Livermore wrongful termination lawsuit were recently awarded $2.7 million by a California jury. All 130 of the other plaintiffs also have claims of age discrimination, and will be tried in a later phase.
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory saga began in 2008, when the U.S. Department of Energy rescinded a contract to run the lab out of the University of California, instead handing it to a private-sector coalition led by a contracting giant, Bechtel.
One of these employees, Marian Barraza, was fired after the contract switch. She had worked at Livermore for nearly 40 years, met her husband there, and one of her daughters had recently started working there. Now, Barraza, along with 130 former Livermore workers, are suing the management company claiming the layoffs were illegally targeted at senior staff members who earned the highest salaries and were closest to retirement.
The privatization of the laboratory’s management system was intended to create better efficacy, bolster security, and increase employment within the company, however, it instead led to extensive layoffs. Some scientists affirm that the layoffs (numbering nearly 3,000) have negatively impacted the quality of research, evidenced by a significant decline in the amount of peer-reviewed research papers produced by Livermore. The number of peer-reviewed papers published by laboratories is a major indicator of productivity among scientists.
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Livermore’s largest recent project, the National Ignition Facility, has been plagued by delays, health and safety concerns, and cost overruns, which was a major influence in the Energy Department to overhaul lab management. The federal agency though the overhaul would save the lab money and gain much-needed transparency, however, it has done the opposite. Bechtel contends that the money issues can be blamed largely on inflation, increased tax obligations, and a $100 million decline in federal appropriations.
Additionally, a 2009 Government Accountability Office report stated that the security flaws continued to linger at Livermore after the privatization, while spending on staff and operations kept falling. A spokesperson for the Livermore scientists’ union stated that the remaining researchers are fearful for their jobs, and are discouraged from discussing problems in any public outlet.
Meanwhile, the laid off employees lament that Livermore was a great place to work until the management contract changed. All 130 of the plaintiffs have contracts stating they can only be fired for reasonable causes.
Each of the first five employees, which included Maria Barraza, were awarded between $200,000 and $850,000 for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. These numbers represent compensation only for past and future economic damages. Each plaintiff’s age discrimination claims, including those of emotional distress from the ordeal, will be tried at a later date.
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These five plaintiffs were chosen to be test cases for the remainder of the plaintiffs, whose trial dates will be decided in mid-May 2013. Now that the jury found that the management company did not have reasonable cause to terminate these long-term employees, the remaining plaintiffs expect to prove that all 130 layoffs were unfair and in bad faith.
Wage, hour and overtime lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have extensive experience advocating on behalf of victims of unfair employment practices. If you or a loved one was unjustly terminated or discriminated against, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation.