Ex-Nortel employees can bring class action

Group will sue for improved severance

A group of older ex-employees of Nortel Networks will find out whether there really is strength in numbers. The former workers have been granted class-action status by an Ontario court.

The employees are unhappy with the severance packages they received. They claim that, given their age, experience, job status and difficulty they’ll have finding similar employment, they are entitled to as much as two years’ pay, rather than the six-month severance package Nortel offered.

At the class-action certification hearing, Nortel argued that, even if the employees weren’t treated fairly, their claims varied so widely, they’d be better off bringing individual lawsuits. The judge determined that the claims were sufficiently similar to enable the workers to bring a class action. Moreover, he noted that for any individual to bring a separate action against a “behemoth such as Nortel” was “a daunting task.”

To be eligible to join the class, employees must be over the age of 50, have more than two years’ experience and they must have lost their jobs between December 2000 and Oct. 19. They also must not have signed a Nortel release.

Nortel has been ordered to produce a list of employees eligible to join the class. Nortel has laid off 40,000 employees since December.

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