When New United Motor Manufacturing Inc.’s closed its plant in Fremont, California in April 2010, the company paid its 4,700 newly laid-off employees an average of $53,000 in severance pay, with a minimum payment of $21,000.
The amount of severance pay depended on years of service to the company and bonuses were offered to employees who worked there during the plant’s final six months. But for people whom received disabilities on the job, and therefore were either unable to work or were recovering from a work injury, their years of service to the company had no effect on the size of their severance package, and they were paid the minimum of $21,000.
As a result, more than 500 workers filed a class action lawsuit against the company, charging that the criteria for the severance pay discriminated against them because of their disabilities.
On August 19, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission announced that the workers had reached to a settlement with NUMMI, requiring the company to pay the workers more than than $6 million in additional severance pay. More than 500 workers with disabilities will receive an average of $21,000 in additional pay, with added benefits depending on their years of service to the company.
The plant was the last automobile plant in the California. General Motors ended its partnership with the plant in June 2009 and Toyota, which will pay $2.2 million of the $6 million to the workers as part of the settlement, left the plant 10 months later, forcing it to shut its doors.
For many of the workers, the settlement marks a moment of consolation after feeling betrayed by their former long-time employee.
“My reaction to being turned down by NUMMI was disbelief,” said June Andrade, a worker who worked on the passenger vehicle assembly line for more than nine years before being injured on the job, said in an article by the Oakland Tribune. “Like a number of employees, I gave blood and sweat to the company. I was loyal to NUMMI. But they weren’t loyal to me. They closed the doors on us.”