OAKLAND -- The public-private partnership that runs Lawrence Livermore Laboratory must pay five former employees $2.7 million for wrongfully terminating them during a 430-employee reduction in May 2009, an Alameda County jury decided.
Ending a trial that lasted more than two months, a jury found that Lawrence Livermore National Security wrongfully discriminated against the five employees by terminating their employment without good cause and breach of contract. In making the finding, the jury decided that the company, a public-private partnership between the University of California and Bechtel Corp., must pay the plaintiffs a total of $2.7 million for lost wages.
"We're pleased with the result, we have won a long, hard-fought case," said Gary Gwilliam, an attorney representing the five employees. "These were good workers that did nothing wrong."
The jury's verdict stems from a lawsuit that was filed several years ago on behalf of 130 employees who lost their jobs during a May 2009 mass layoff that was made as the lab dealt with a national recession and a change of focus away from nuclear weapons development.
While laboratory executives argued the layoffs were done to position the organization for the future, a lawsuit filed against the company claimed that many of the people picked for layoffs were higher-paid senior employees. In fact, during the trial, one witness who kept her job said employees began calling the layoff day "Gray Day" because all the people who lost jobs had gray hair. Evidence also showed the average age of those who lost their job was 54.
Although the lawsuit was filed on behalf of 130 employees, an Alameda County judge ruled earlier that the case should be split to make it more manageable for a jury. The jury's verdict Friday was made in favor of the first five plaintiffs to have their case heard.
Patricia Gillette, an attorney who represented the lab, could not be reached for comment Friday.