U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Meeting of July 15, 2009 – Age Discrimination in the 21st Century-Barriers to the Employment of Older Workers
My name is John Stannard. I am one of the 17 remaining plaintiffs in an age discrimination case named Meacham v. KAPL.
I would like to start by thanking the EEOC for all of the assistance it has provided in filing amicus briefs in our case. These briefs have gone a long way towards educating the Courts on the appropriate interpretation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the “ADEA”). I would also like to thank you for holding these hearings to investigate the effects of age discrimination in the United States today, especially as our economy slumps. I can tell you from first hand experience that the economic and emotional effects of losing one’s job as a result of age discrimination is devastating and long lasting.
My date of birth is April 14, 1948. For 27 years, I worked at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (“KAPL”) in Niskayuna, NY. KAPL is a facility owned by the United States Department of Energy (“DOE”) and operated by a private contractor, which at the time of my layoff was Lockheed Martin Corporation (“Lockheed”). The purpose of the facility is to train U.S. Navy personnel in the operation of nuclear powered vessels.
My last position at KAPL was as a Specialist involved in pressure testing of nuclear containment systems. I always enjoyed working at KAPL and was proud to be serving my country in helping to train our navy personnel.
In 1995, KAPL announced that it had been ordered by DOE to cut its workforce. A Voluntary Separation Program (“VSP”) was offered only to employees with at least 20 years of service. The program included a $20,000.00 payment to those who agreed to voluntarily retire. 107 people volunteered to resign under the VSP program. This meant that KAPL was only one person above its workforce ceiling. However, KAPL decided to go ahead with plans to hire 35 employees (average age, 27). This meant that 36 employees would be involuntarily terminated. Five of those terminated were hourly employees.
Of the 31 salaried exempt people who were terminated, including me, 30 were over the age of 40 (97%). KAPL’s exempt workforce numbered over 2,000. Fifty-eight percent (58%) of the exempt workforce was 40 years of age or older, and forty-two percent (42%) were under 40.
In selecting the 31 exempt employees to be terminated, KAPL relied heavily on numerical rankings based largely on the completely subjective criterias of “flexibility” and “criticality”. These subjective criteria were poorly defined and little or no oversight of the process was provided in order to ensure that age bias did not infect the decision-making. I was one of the 31 employees selected for layoff.
On December 5, 1995, I was told to pack up my belongings. I was then escorted out of the building by security personnel.
In January of 1997, I and twenty seven (27) other terminated employees, brought suit against KAPL, Lockheed and the General Manager, John Freeh, alleging, among other things, we had been subjected to adverse impact age discrimination in violation of the ADEA. In November of 2000, after a jury trial lasting several months in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of N.Y., the jury returned a verdict for us finding that KAPL implemented an age neutral employment policy which had an adverse impact on the exempt terminated employees because of our ages and that the discrimination was willful.
Almost nine years later the case remains on appeal. It has been before the U.S. Supreme Court twice and the Second Circuit of Appeals four times. In the nine-year appeal period, two of my fellow plaintiffs have died. Others continue to suffer from the economic and emotional effects of losing their jobs. No resolution is yet in sight. I truly believe that some preference should be granted by the Courts’ in age cases. Time is definitely not on our side.
I believe that I was selected for layoff merely because of the false stereotype which characterizes older workers as less flexible and critical. For 27 years, my performance was always rated as good or excellent. I was proud to do a job which I considered important to our national security. When I was laid off, I felt completely betrayed.
My family’s standard of living was severely impacted. My son had to drop out of the Albany College of Pharmacy because I could no longer afford to help with tuition payments. In desperate need of money, I took the only job readily available, which was a janitor position at KAPL. I was cleaning the wastebaskets of my former colleagues. I also took a nearly 50% wage cut. I was very humiliated. I suffered anxiety, stress and loss of self-esteem which resulted in physical symptoms such as sleeping and eating problems, high blood pressure, back pain and trigeminal neuralgia, a condition caused by stress which resulted in intense pain in my face.
My life has been severely negatively impacted due to age discrimination. I hope that my testimony will help others to understand the devastating effects on people’s lives which result from such actions.