On February 21, 2013 United States District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer entered an order conditionally certifying a collective action in Barnes vs. The Hershey Company (CV-01334-CRB (NC)) for a group of former Hershey workers who were 40 and older and terminated involuntarily on or after January 1, 2009. The Order allows for “All persons who were employed by The Hershey Company as Customer Sales Executives or Category Development Managers in the United States and whose employment was involuntarily terminated on or after January 1, 2009 and who were 40 years of age or older at the time their employment terminated” to join Gregory P. Barnes, David C. Bolle, and Mary Wasson in their joint efforts to hold Hershey accountable for their wrongful termination.
In the coming weeks, notice of this lawsuit and a form to join this case will be mailed out to all former workers in these groups.
Click here for Judge Breyer’s Order re Conditional Certification and Notice.
This suit was filed on February 12, 2012 and removed by Hershey to federal court in San Francisco on March 16, 2012. The three plaintiffs, all over 40 and former high level sales executives at Hershey, allege that Hershey has engaged in a longstanding pattern or practice of discriminating against older workers, through its use of the blocker-targeting practice (a business practice where older workers are deemed to be blocking the progress of younger lower salaried workers often times with different pension structures) and that their discharges from Hershey were part and parcel of this longstanding pattern or practice.
Hershey sought to transfer the case to Pennsylvania but the Court rejected this request. Hershey also filed a Summary Judgment seeking to have the claims dismissed based on releases signed by two of the three plaintiffs. The Court denied this request, ruling that Hershey had not met its burden of showing that legal releases signed by the plaintiffs in this age discrimination group case were valid under federal law. In coming to this decision, the Court correctly gave a broad reading to the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA).
These orders pave the way for these and other wrongfully fired CSEs and CDMs to join the suit and go forward collectively, even if a worker had signed a release.