Former Pittsburgh Glass Works (PGW) employees have appealed a lower court’s decision to the Third District Court of Appeals. The former employees allege age discrimination after they were terminated as a part of a reduction in workforce for the company in 2009.
In 2009, PGW trimmed approximately 100 employees from its workforce. Rudolph Karlo and several other former employees filed the class action complaint against PGW in 2010 after they were terminated.
“On March 31, 2009, appellants, all 50 years of age or older, were terminated by PGW in a company-wide reduction in force (RIF) of its salaried employees in the United States. Appellants sued after determining the RIF had a disparate impact on employees age 50 and older,” according to the appeal.
The original judge for the District Court conditionally certified the class action under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
“First, she [the judge] decided that a 50 and older class is cognizable under the ADEA, and rejected PGW’s argument that plaintiffs must demonstrate a disparate impact on employees age 40 and older,” according to the court documents.
Following discovery, the judge recused herself and this case was reassigned to Judge Terrence F. McVerry.
“He then decertified the class, and, in direct contravention to Judge Fischer’s finding, held that the opt-in plaintiffs were not similarly situated to the original plaintiffs,” according to court documents.
Attorneys for the appellants say the second District Court judge was wrong by deviating from the original judge’s ruling.
Though the District Court judge issued a summary judgment in favor of PGW saying the class action could not go forward, he did allow Count 3 of the complaint to proceed to trial at the District Court level. This count included the retaliation claims by Karlo and former PGW employee Mark McLure.
A U.S. District Court jury has found that PGW “willfully and unlawfully retaliated against a former employee in violation of the Age Discrimination Employee Act (ADEA).” The jury awarded Karlo $922,060.
Former employee McLure, who also complained of retaliation by the company, entered a settlement with the company.
“At a minimum, the jury’s finding of a willful violation arising out of Karlo’s refusal to withdraw the very age discrimination charges [a complaint he filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after being rehired] giving rise to this appeal would provide further evidence to support this claim if the District Court is reversed,” attorneys say in the appeal.
“The District Court erred in overturning the law of the case on 50 and older disparate impact claims, excluding appellants’ statistical analysis, decertifying the collective action, and excluding appellants’ social science experts. These decisions by the District Court should therefore be reversed,” according to court documents.
EEOC Chimes In
The EEOC filed a brief in the Appellate Court in favor of the reversal of the District Court’s decision.
“[The District Court did not] discuss why it was deviating from Judge Fischer’s earlier order in which she devoted nine pages to explaining why the ADEA authorizes disparate impact subgroup claims for older workers,” according to the EEOC brief.
In the court filing, the EEOC urged the Appellate Court to reverse to the District Court’s decision.
At press time, PGW had not yet responded in the Appellate Court. On April 13, 2016, PGW requested and was granted a 30-day extension to file its response brief.
History of Company
In 2008, PPG began negotiations with Kohlberg & Co., which led to a joint venture agreement. PPG retained a 40 percent ownership interest in automotive glass and Kohlberg acquired the remaining 60 percent ownership interest. In November 2008, PPG and Kohlberg established a jointly owned successor entity—PGW. In late February 2016, LKQ Corp. announced it is acquiring PGW from private equity firm Kohlberg & Co. LLC and PPG Industries Inc. for an enterprise value of $635 million.
To read the appellants court filing, click here.
To read the EEOC’s brief, click here.
Stay tuned to glassBYTEs.com™ for more on this case as it develops.