March 28, 2018

A D.C. federal judge on Tuesday reinstated claims from hundreds of flight service controllers who were dismissed from a long-running age discrimination suit against the U.S. Department of Transportation, saying new evidence suggests their former lawyers misled them about their rights and obligations in the litigation.

U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman granted a motion from more than 600 flight service controllers to reconsider a pair of court orders from May 2008 and February 2009 that dismissed them from the suit for failing to respond to court discovery orders, reinstating their claims based on new evidence showing that their former attorneys didn’t properly represent them.

“Instead of holding the dismissed plaintiffs accountable for Gebhardt & Associates’ misleading communications and the firm’s failure to fulfill its ethical and professional obligations to them, justice requires that this court reconsider their dismissals,” Judge Friedman said.

According to the ruling, the plaintiffs had letters and correspondence from their former attorneys at Gebhardt & Associates LLP, a Washington, D.C.-based employment law firm, in early 2007 demanding that each individual plaintiff pay $10,000 each if they wanted the firm to keep representing them in the age discrimination litigation, which first kicked off in 2005 and was organized by the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists. The union had stopped paying the firm because it was no longer receiving dues from affected members who were laid off by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the ruling.

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The air traffic controllers are represented by Joseph M. Sellers, Shaylyn Cochran, Brian Corman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Gary M. Gilbert, Linda A. Kincaid, Stephanie M. Herrera and Michal Shinnar of Gilbert Employment Law.

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