USX did not discriminate against older workers when it offered benefits for those who retired early before shutting down its Orem Geneva Works in 1986, but it may have misled them, U.S. District Judge Bruce S. Jenkins has ruled.
About 900 former employees filed suit in 1987, contending that USX improperly sought to avoid pension payments when it sold the plant to a group of Utah investors.The employees' suit says USX unlawfully induced them to retire by offering them guaranteed lump-sum pensions and medical benefits while at the same time refusing to disclose that USX planned to shut down Geneva Works - an act that might have entitled the workers to sizable shutdown pensions.
Jenkins refused to issue a summary judgment on the question of deceit by USX. He said questions remain about when USX knew about the plant shutdown and whether USX officials deliberately misled employees. A fact finder may be needed to determine that information, he said.
However, he issued a summary judgment in favor of USX on the allegations of age discrimination. The employees failed to prove that the layoffs, failures to recall employees and use of overtime and contracts discriminated on the basis of age, he said.
"While older Geneva Works employees may have lost more in pension benefits due to layoffs than their younger counterparts, that would be true of any layoff," Jenkins wrote. "Plaintiffs confuse age with years of service."
However, Jenkins would not issue a summary judgment on the issue of whether USX's pattern of layoffs, calls, overtime and contracts constituted an attempt to avoid paying benefits to employees.
"The record reveals at least some evidence to suggest that benefits avoidance may have been a factor in the layoff decisions," he wrote. A fact finder may also be needed to determine benefit avoidance as well.