It took seven years but over-40s fired by HP win $18m settlement

Minimum of $15,000 per plaintiff, after lawyers' fees. Justice is done!

After over seven years of legal battles, a group of former HP employees who claim the venerable firm discriminated against older staff when culling jobs has won a $18 million settlement.

Hewlett Packard's offshoots, HP and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) have agreed to cough up just over a day's combined profits for the last quarter to settle a class-action case brought by employees who were over 40 and got laid off when the company split in 2015. The group sued HP and HPE in 2016 claiming both the new entities and the old Hewlett Packard had unfairly targeted older employees for layoffs as far back as 2012. 

Two classes were designated in the lawsuit - 146 former staff accusing HP and HPE of age discrimination on US Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) grounds, and 212 accusing their former employer of the same based on California state labor laws. 

The settlement notice [PDF], which was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California in late September and preliminarily approved by a judge on Thursday, doesn't include any admission of guilt on HP or HPE's part - quite the opposite, in fact.

"Throughout the litigation, each Defendant has denied, and continues to deny, the allegations described above," lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in the settlement notice. Nonetheless, the settlement notice was filed without opposition from HP and HPE.

Settle or we'll wait you out

While the case is no doubt an increasingly expensive annoyance for the two HPs, their lawyers made it clear that waiting out the case was also an option. The filing points out several plaintiffs have already died during the legal action.

"The Parties are in a good position to evaluate the risks of continued litigation against the benefits of settlement," the settlement notice noted. "While plaintiffs won several major motions … they recognize that this ongoing litigation poses significant risks." 

HP and HPE "also won significant motions in this action," the lawyers note, but "even if plaintiffs were to prevail at trial, extended appeals are likely, further delaying potential relief." Given "six ADEA have already passed away, and the chances are that the same is true for some California Class Members," delaying settlement further would entail substantial risks for both parties. 

Judge Edward Davila determined the settlement was "fair, adequate and reasonable" yesterday, and will issue a final order later, a draft [PDF] of which was also filed with the court in September. 

If approved without changes, each of the 358 plaintiffs in the California case stand to earn $50,279 in gross individual recovery. Net of attorney's fees, costs and expenses, however, that total shrinks to a "minimum of $15,000," court filings indicate. 

HP was also sued in Colorado for similar age discrimination practices in 2020, but the status of that case is unclear.

We didn't hear back from HP about the settlement, and HPE had no comment. ®

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