A six-year-old wrongful termination lawsuit by former employees against Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has moved to mediation.
Judge Robert Freedman of Alameda County Superior Court continued the complex lawsuit to allow representatives of the two parties to meet in April with a private mediator. Mediation is not binding but can sometimes lead to agreement and save disputing parties time and money.
The suit stems from the 2008 termination of 430 Laboratory employees at a time when federal budgets were being cut and LLNL faced increased costs and reduced operating budgets due to a new, for-profit management structure dictated by Congress and the Administration.
The change in contract generated rises in health costs, taxes and management fees, contributing to the first large-scale involuntary layoffs at LLNL in more than 30 years. More than 1,000 limited term and contract employees also were let go.
The following year, 130 of the career employees who had been terminated filed suit based on allegations of age discrimination and breach of contract. The employees are represented by the Oakland law firm of Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer.
Rather than try all 130 cases individually or in a single group, Judge Freedman chose to try the claims of five administrative employees in two separate trials, one on age discrimination and the other on contract violation.
In 2013, a jury awarded $2.7 million to the five for breach of contract. It found no retaliation against one of them, Elaine Andrews, for whom the suit is named. In a separate trial, a jury found that the Laboratory had not practiced illegal age discrimination.
The next phase of the suit, to try the claims of 10 scientific former employees, was scheduled to take place in May. That will be postponed until after October 1 pending the results of the mediation, Judge Freedman ruled.
The Laboratory insists that in carrying out the layoffs, it followed established policies and procedures that were consistent with federal requirements. It has called the 2008 cutbacks “painful,” necessitated by funding cutbacks.
For their parts, attorneys for the plaintiffs have emphasized the financial and emotional hardship experienced by those who were terminated. They have claimed that the layoffs were carried out “in bad faith” and noted that the one jury verdict rendered to date found for the plaintiffs.