Seyfarth Synopsis: On June 11, 2019, in an age discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee once again demonstrated how the lenient standard that is so often applied at the conditional certification stage of a collective action brought under the procedural rules of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In Manlove v. Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, No. 18-CV-145 (E.D. Tenn. June 11, 2019), the Court granted conditional certification on the basis of just four declarations, even though those declarations identified four different methods of alleged age discrimination that were perpetrated by different decision-makers.
In Manlove, an assistant manager in the Chattanooga, Tennessee Volkswagen assembly plant sought conditional certification of his claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA") on behalf of a putative collective action of all Volkswagen employees in the United States aged fifty and over - which, if certified in full, would have included thirty-five different locations in more than fourteen states.
Plaintiff alleged that employees over the age of 50 were unfairly targeted and discriminated against as part of a corporate initiative that was allegedly designed to make the company "slimmer, leaner and younger." That initiative - called the "Pact" - was announced on November 18, 2016 and involved the elimination of 30,000 jobs in Germany and around the world. On June 26, 2017, the Company issued a press release stating, among other things, that the Pact would provide "new motivation" and a new selection procedure for junior managers. Two senior executives with authority over human-resources decisions were transferred to Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Plaintiff alleged that the Company began to take discriminatory action against older employees shortly after the Pact was announced. Plaintiff alleged that he was passed over for promotion by younger managers, and that he and another older employee were demoted after the Company restructured his department to eliminate two out of five manager positions.
Plaintiff also submitted declarations from three other over-50 employees at the Chattanooga plant. One alleged that she was abruptly terminated for violating a company policy and was immediately replaced by a much younger employee. Another alleged that he was selected for promotion to a manager position, but then told that he was too old to be included in the Company's management...