April 28, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Settlement is the Largest Ever Payout From the Federal Government for Age Discrimination Claims
Hundreds of Flight Service Specialists Sued FAA After Their Roles Were Contracted Out in 2005 Because of Their Age
WASHINGTON D.C. – Attorneys representing 670 former flight service (FS) specialists employees announced a record-breaking $43.8 million settlement today with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over an age discrimination lawsuit. In 2005, the FAA announced that all FS specialists positions would be outsourced to Lockheed Martin, a decision that was made because the majority of workers in these positions were over the age of 40. It is the largest settlement ever reached in an age discrimination lawsuit involving the federal government. The plaintiffs were represented by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and Gary M. Gilbert & Associates, P.C.
“It has been a long journey, but I am thrilled that justice will finally be served in this case,” said Kathleen Breen, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Sixteen years ago, I lost my job due to a discriminatory choice by our federal government, despite our loyalty and commitment to keeping our skies safe. The consequences of that decision are still with so many of us to this day, which is why we never gave up our fight.”
“The FAA committed a serious violation of the law by deciding to cut loose hundreds of employees because of their age,” said Joseph Sellers, Partner at Cohen Milstein, Chair of the firm’s Executive Committee and Chair of the Civil Rights & Employment Practice Group. “Whenever the government breaks the law there must be accountability, and that is exactly what this settlement accomplishes. This case should serve as a reminder that no agency is above the law, and violating the rights of federal employees will have serious consequences.”
“This was among the most egregious acts of mistreatment of employees by our government that I have seen in my more than 40 years of practice. The FAA lured these folks into a profession that had little transferable skills with promises of enhanced retirement benefits. It then discarded them after private industry sought to contract to provide the same work cheaper only by using the same workforce without any retirement benefits. In an unprecedented act, the FAA promised private industry these employees would be available as a workforce and then frustrated efforts for the displaced workers to find other jobs in the Federal sector,” said Gary M. Gilbert.
FS specialists provide critical information to pilots about meteorological and aeronautical conditions before planes take off in order to ensure safe flights. Changes in the role of FS specialists caused the FAA to consider cost-saving measures and conduct a reduction in force (RIF) process in the early 2000’s. As the FAA assessed the future of FS specialists, it argued that a reason to outsource these positions was because the roles were filled by an “aging” and “retirement eligible workforce,” meaning that keeping older workers would make it more difficult to train and recruit new people, while also causing the government to pay out full retirement benefits.
The FAA eventually sent out a request for bids to private companies to take over the workforce, which Lockheed Martin won in 2005. As a direct result, thousands of FS specialists lost their jobs and pension benefits. Many of these positions were eventually consolidated or eliminated completely, and hundreds of FS specialists lost their jobs. Roughly 92 percent of the workers impacted were over the age of 40. The settlement covers FS specialists who live in nearly all 50 states.
In 2017, the plaintiffs changed counsel, bringing in Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and Gary M. Gilbert & Associates, P.C. From there, the case moved quickly, coming close to trial just before the pandemic struck and ultimately reaching the settlement being announced today.
About Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll
Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC is recognized as one of the premier law firms in the country handling major, complex plaintiff-side litigation. With more than 100 attorneys, Cohen Milstein has offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Ill., New York, N.Y., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Philadelphia, Pa. and Raleigh, N.C. For additional information, visit www.cohenmilstein.com or call 202.408.4600.