Saturday, July 07, 2001

Nuclear workers' lawsuit settled

By James Hannah
The Associated Press

        DAYTON, Ohio — A federal judge Friday approved the settlement of a lawsuit filed by former Mound nuclear weapons plant workers who said they lost their jobs because of their age after a change in contractors.

        The settlement and dismissal of the nearly 3-year-old lawsuit filed against Babcock & Wilcox affects 36 former workers.

        The workers are all over 40 years old and were employed at the plant between 21 and 31 years. They said they lost their jobs because Babcock & Wilcox refused to hire them when the company took over operation of the plant from EG&G Mound Applied Technologies in 1997.

        The lawsuit accused Babcock & Wilcox of obtaining information on worker salaries, ages, years of service and eligibility for retirement benefits, and then hiring younger, less qualified workers to reduce benefits the company was required to pay.

        Under the settlement, eligible former workers will receive lump-sum retirement benefits based on age and service. They also will get $200-a-month supplemental pension payments up to $23,800 to help pay for health insurance.

        The workers also will be allowed to buy health insurance at the same lower rates as current Mound workers.

        In addition, Babcock & Wilcox will place $300,000 in a trust fund to help the workers cover their cost of pursuing the lawsuit.

        “We believe the settlement is fair and adequate to meet their needs and concerns,” said Daniel Beerck, attorney for the workers.

        Gary Young, 55, of Germantown, estimated his retirement benefits will be 30 percent lower — or more than $100,000 less — than what they would have been had he been able to keep his job.

        “I'm not satisfied with it at all,” Mr. Young said.

        Asked why he agreed to the settlement, Mr. Young replied: “Because we get something.”

        As part of the settlement, the workers agreed not to pursue any future discrimination claims against the company and to drop the lawsuit without making it a class-action case.

        In settlement documents, Babcock & Wilcox denied any wrongdoing or liability. The company said studies by statistician Sharon Kelly demonstrated there was no discriminatory impact in its hiring practices.

        “The settlement, which was for less than the anticipated cost of defending the litigation, demonstrates what we've said all along: Babcock & Wilcox acted properly in its hiring practices when it took over the site,” company President Peyton Bake said.

        The workers had originally asked the court to allow the lawsuit to represent what they said were more than 100 former workers in a similar situation.

        The plant in Miamisburg began operation in 1949, producing triggers for nuclear weapons. Weapons work at the plant ended in 1994.

        The primary work at the 306-acre site now is cleaning up radioactive and other hazardous materials.


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