Attorneys for a group of disabled former employees of the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant in Fremont who claim they didn’t receive proper severance benefits when the plant was shuttered last year announced today that a $6 million settlement has been reached in the case.
If the settlement is approved by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, it will resolve a lawsuit that was filed last year alleging that NUMMI and Toyota Motor Corp. violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying bonuses and transitional services to qualified workers who were on leave because of medical conditions.
Christopher Herrera, a spokesman for the plaintiffs, said the parties in the case expect Breyer to approve the settlement soon. He said the agreement will provide funds to more than 500 displaced workers.
Representatives of NUMMI and Toyota couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
NUMMI opened in 1984 and was a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors, but Toyota decided to close the auto plant after GM withdrew from the partnership in 2009.
The move threw 4,700 union employees out of work and affected thousands of employees at suppliers around the state who did business with the auto plant.
Tesla Motors and Toyota formed a partnership last year to build electric cars at the former NUMMI site. Production is expected to start next year.
Many of the workers involved in the lawsuit had worked at the plant for decades but claimed their years of service weren’t reflected in their severance packages because they were on medical leave.
The lawyers claim the workers lost up to $38,000 each because of the alleged discrimination.
David Botelli, of Manteca, who joined NUMMI when it opened in 1984, said in a statement, “I worked for NUMMI for 25 years but I was offered the same severance as a person who had worked one year.”
“The only reason I wasn’t working was that I was injured on the job,” Botelli said. “And when I was released by my doctor, NUMMI would not allow me to return.”
June Andrade, who lives near Livermore, said she was prevented from returning to work after recovering from surgery for an on-the-job injury, and was excluded from transitional employment services such as career and skills assessments that were offered at the auto plant.
Andrade said, “I joined the lawsuit because it wasn’t fair to treat the disabled workers less favorably–we were all part of the NUMMI team.”
The former NUMMI employees also filed charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. As part of the settlement, NUMMI entered into a conciliation agreement with the federal agency, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
Tony Lawson, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said the settlement will provide needed funds to the displaced workers. He said many of them are still struggling and haven’t returned to full-time employment.
“Distributing these funds will make a difference to former NUMMI workers and their families,” Lawson said in a statement.
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News