Ex-Employees Secure Conditional Class Certification in HP Age Discrimination Dispute

A Northern District of California judge has preliminarily certified two classes of employees formerly employed by HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company, previously known as the single entity, Hewlett-Packard Company. The labor suit, brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and California law contended that HP knowingly instituted a policy of pushing out older employees and replacing them with younger hires.

Tuesday’s opinion explains that five named plaintiffs filed suit after they were fired from HP pursuant to its “Workforce Restructuring Initiative” under the leadership of former CEO Meg Whitman. The former employees alleged that they all were subject to the same illegal selection of older workers for termination pursuant to HP’s reorganization plan.

In his analysis, Judge Edward J. Davila noted that the purpose of conditional certification is to permit the sending of court-approved notice to workers who may want to join the litigation. The court also acknowledged that, in comparison to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23’s class certification, the plaintiffs’ burden is light and leaves the court to merely consider whether putative class members are similarly situated.

The defendants opposed the motion, arguing that the plaintiffs’ theory ignores the financial and business circumstances that HP and Whitman were facing when it fired them. Judge Davila declined HP’s arguments, once again reiterating the low bar for conditional certification. Ultimately, the court ruled that declarations submitted by four of the five plaintiffs combined with the “detailed factual allegations in the complaint” showed that the prospective class members’ claims were sufficiently alike.

Relatedly, HP was sued last November by an employee who accused the company of illegally discriminating against him based on his age. The defendants’ motion to compel arbitration or, in the alternative, dismiss the complaint is currently pending in the Northern District of Georgia.

The California litigation plaintiffs are represented by Andrus Anderson LLP and O’Neil Cannon Hollman De Jong & Laing S.C. HP is represented by Littler Mendelson P.C.