Former HP workers one small step closer to throwing one giant sueball at tech goliath

Arbitration in ongoing age bias battle can be fought together, says judge

By Rebecca Hill

Posted in Business, 8th February 2018 12:33 GMT

A group of ex-HP staffers who claim they were discriminated against due to their age have been granted the right to together keep fighting an arbitration case against the IT giant.

The biz tried to block them from taking joint action in the latest phase of the saga, which began back in August 2016 – a tactic it has used before – but yesterday a judge in the US denied its request.

The group in question is a subset of 49 workers who were laid off in 2015-16 and then chucked a sueball at HP, saying they had been discriminated against on the basis of their age.

Fifteen of these workers, though, had signed a release agreement in exchange for severance benefits – and this agreement included waiving their rights to file a class action suit.

Although they argue this agreement is invalid, saying it didn’t comply with the requirements of the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act because the waiver was not “knowing and voluntary”, it was a bump in the road for the wider collective legal action.

In September last year, Judge Edward Davila, in a northern California district court, said the workers who had signed the agreement had to go into arbitration to assess whether their claims were enforceable.

Following that order, the 15 filed their arbitration demand together - but HP countered that they couldn't club together because of the class waiver.

However, in an order handed down yesterday, Davila said that the company had interpreted the release agreement "too narrowly".

The pending arbitration, he said, "is not, in substance, a class arbitration", as each person is "specifically identified in the arbitration demand and the relief sought is individualized".

He added: "Nothing about the arbitration demand will prevent the arbitrator from considering facts specific to certain Arbitration Plaintiffs and making different, individualized determinations about each RA, if the circumstances so require."

However, the judge did grant HP’s request to continue to stay the wider age discrimination case until the arbitration over the release agreement is resolved, so it can be tried as a whole, rather than in two groups.

The plaintiffs had claimed the time delay could damage their case - arguing that it risked memories fading further - but the judge wasn't persuaded by these claims.

"Any prejudice that Plaintiffs stand to suffer from a stay pending arbitration is at least in part a problem of their own making," he said, because they chose to bring the lawsuit as a mixed group.

"If Plaintiffs were truly concerned about the latter being held up by the former, they could have excluded those who had signed the RA from this lawsuit."

The court has set a status conference for May 10, 2018.®

Sign up to our NewsletterGet IT in your inbox daily


More from The Register

After Microsoft calls out HP Inc over stalled Windows 10 logins, HP bounces back with a fix

Shove this tool into your PC if it's getting stuck during startup

HP starts slinging Apple hardware, tech support vending machines

Add Macs, iPads and iPhones to Devices-as-a-service offering

HP Ink to compensate punters for bricking third-party ink cartridges

‘Dynamic Security Feature’ ruled Dodgy Sales FUD by Australian regulator

HP is turning off 'Always On' data deals but won't say why

April Fools' Day deadline set

Leftover Synaptics debugger puts a keylogger on HP laptops

Vendor first to patch, expect other OEMs to follow

Mad Leo tried to sack me over Autonomy, says top HP Inc beancounter

Court hears Catherine Lesjak recall vicious infighting over doomed $11bn buyout

Wait! Before you fire up that HP lappy, check the battery

New year, new recall – like the one in 2017, 2016, 2013, 20...

HP coughs up $6.5m to make dodgy laptop display lawsuit go away

Pavillion notebook screen died back in 2003? There might be a small check for you

Is this why Facebook is such a toxic dump? HP, HPE sued for 'leaking chems' into office site

Stanford uni fumes at Palo Alto soil contamination cleanup bill

Autonomy ex-CFO Hussain guilty of fraud: He cooked the books amid $11bn HP gobble

Brit exec Sushovan to cough up $8m after US jury convicts him