Not what Volkswagen wants to see: class action age-bias claim

A collective reaching for the Advil.

That might be have been the go-to group response of senior executives participating in undoubtedly tense meetings last week at the headquarters of German automaker Volkswagen. The global car-making company was visited on June 29 with a lawsuit that promises to challenge the iconic enterprise in a material way.

Allegations of widespread mistreatment aimed at a select group of workers will do that. What company principals are now digesting and seeking to control in damage-containment mode is a federal class action lawsuit grounded in an age-bias claim.

Such a filing is close to a nightmare for a company still emerging from a public-relations black eye in the wake of an unprecedented fuel-emissions scandal.

What Volkswagen is now dealing with is the claim that its publicly acknowledged pledge “to become younger and slimmer” has been promoted through policies aimed at demoting and/or denying fair work opportunities for workers over 50. The plaintiff in the case asserts that he was downgraded at work for no valid reason and pursuant to that strategy. His complaint states that Volkswagen is purposely seeking to “purge older workers from its management ranks by implementing illegal age discrimination policies.”

There are of course two sides to every dispute, with it being a certainty that the automaker will defend itself vigorously against the recent filing.

The stakes are high, with the potential class of plaintiffs in the matter being huge. Reportedly, Volkswagen has implemented an early-retirement program that targets as many as 7,000 older employees. That initiative will undoubtedly be looked at closely by the federal judge overseeing the case.