Volkswagen AG to Settle Worker’s Classwide Age-Based Job Suit

Posted October 21st, 2019.

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By Patrick Dorrian

  • Mediator reports settlement ‘in principle’ to court
  • Case claims nationwide bias against workers age 50 and older

Volkswagen AG and two U.S. subsidiaries have agreed to settle a former assistant logistics manager’s lawsuit alleging the automaker moved to drive out workers age 50 and older nationwide, according to court records in the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Further work needs to be done to iron out some details of the settlement and related documents, but an agreement “in principle” has been reached to resolve Jonathan Manlove’s June 2018 lawsuit, mediator Michael L. Russell said in a report filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee Oct. 20.

Terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed in the filing and counsel for the parties didn’t immediately respond Oct. 21 to Bloomberg Law’s requests for comment.

Manlove’s suit alleges Volkswagen’s 2016 announcement of its “Pact for the Future” really was an attempt to rebrand itself following the automaker’s “Dieselgate” emissions-fraud scandal the same year. VW planned, according to the pact, to cut 23,000 jobs in Germany and another 7,000 in South America and elsewhere, which it said were necessary due to “natural fluctuations.” But the company soon began shedding older workers through coercive practices, revealing the true, age-biased motive behind the initiative, he said.

The push affected him personally as he was demoted at age 53 into a lower-paying supervisory position at VW’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant, Manlove said.

Judge Travis R. McDonough declined to dismiss Manlove’s nationwide class allegations in June, finding the “Pact for the Future” could be the sort of common policy that provides the “glue” the U.S. Supreme Court has held is necessary for large groups of workers spread throughout the U.S. to sue on a classwide basis. The judge in May had conditionally certified a smaller class of Chattanooga workers under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP represents Manlove and the proposed class. Miller & Martin PLLC, King & Spalding LLP, and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP represent the Volkswagen companies.

The case is Manlove v. Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, E.D. Tenn., No. 1:18-cv-145, settlement in principle 10/20/19.

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