Volume 42, Issue 11 - November 2007

Legislative & Legal   

Former Employees Sue PPG Industries 
Alleging Age Discrimination 

The former PPG Industries employees who filed a class and collective action suit against the company in May 2007 filed an amended complaint on August 7 in the Western District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The group of former PPG employees alleges that PPG’s practices “discriminate against its older work force in conducting Reductions-in-Force (‘RIFs’) and forced retirements over an extended period of time.” Since the original suit was filed, PPG has filed a motion to dismiss the claims and a counterclaim alleging that the plaintiffs all signed “Separation Agreements and Releases” and that by filing this suit all have breached the contracts they made with PPG.

In the complaint, the employees claim that PPG conducts “standardless performance evaluations, which allowed PPG to manipulate and distort its older workers’ records of performance in order to create a pretext for terminating older workers.” 

Likewise, the group alleges that the company “secretively adopt[s] and employ[s] methods for evaluating, ranking and selecting employees for terminations in its regular RIFs, which … result[s] in the termination of disproportionately high numbers of older workers.” 

Finally, the plaintiffs also allege that older workers at PPG have been compelled to accept retirement packages “identical to what was available to workers who were simply terminated” and that the company has “fail[ed] and refus[ed] to reinstate, retrain and/or re-locate older employees into positions that matched their job qualifications which became available after their termination … in violation of PPG’s written polices governing employees terminated in RIFs.”

The group of plaintiffs, led by attorney Bruce Fox, alleges that the above practices and others named in the complaint are in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The complaint says the practices noted therein began “in or about 1997, when Raymond LeBoeuf became PPG’s chief executive officer and chairman of the board.” (LeBoeuf retired in 2005, and Charles Bunch now serves as president, chairperson and chief executive officer.)

PPG, represented by attorneys from Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, has admitted to the methods by which the plaintiffs were released from the company, but repeatedly denied the age discrimination allegations. 

PPG’s counterclaim alleges that each of the plaintiffs signed a “Separation and Agreement Release” in exchange for the severance benefits and payments they received. None of the plaintiffs have revoked the release agreements, which include an obligation “never to file a lawsuit or become a member of a class asserting any claims that are released.” 

SAFTIFirst Files Patent Infringement Lawsuit 
San Francisco-based O’Keeffe’s Inc. has filed a lawsuit against Anemostat in Carson, Calif., Technical Glass Products (TGP) in Kirkland, Wash., and Pilkington PLC, a U.K.-based company, for patent infringement of its SuperLite I-W, a CPSC Category II safety-rated wired glass product. The suit alleges that each defendant currently markets and/or sells a product identical to the patented SuperLite I-W, which is marketed and sold by SAFTIFirst, a division of O’Keeffe’s. 

The complaint was filed July 6, 2007, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. According to the document, “Defendant TGP fabricates, markets and sells a product known as PyroShield NT which infringes on the O’Keeffe Patent.” The document also contends that Pilkington provides the wired glass used by TGP in the fabrication and manufacture of the PyroShield product, in addition to marketing and selling PyroShield NT.

The complaint further alleges, “Anemostat fabricates, markets and/or sells a product it fabricates known as SAFE-Wire which infringes the O’Keeffe Patent.”

“Even though there’s growing concern among American manufacturers over patent infringement by foreign competitors, we are especially concerned about the infringement by other U.S. companies within the fire-rated glazing industry seeking to benefit form our product development efforts,” says Bill O’Keeffe, president and chief executive officer of SAFTIFirst. “Either way, we intend to defend our patents vigorously.”

Representatives from TGP, Pilkington or Anemostat declined to comment.  

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