Jet Propulsion Laboratory to Pay $10 Million to Settle EEOC Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Older Employees Were Laid Off in Favor of Retaining and Recruiting Younger Employees, Federal Agency Charged

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today the settlement of an age discrimination lawsuit against Pasadena, Calif.-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The laboratory has agreed to pay $10 million, along with injunctive relief, in order to reach an early resolution of the suit.

According to the EEOC, JPL systemically laid off employees over the age of 40 in favor of retaining younger employees. The complaint also alleges that older employees were passed over for rehire in favor of less qualified, younger employees.

Such conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (EEOC v. Jet Propulsion Labor­atory, 2:20-cv-03131-CBM-JC) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation agree­ment through its conciliation process.

In addition to monetary relief to dozens of older employees, the three-year consent decree settling the suit, which remains under the court’s jurisdiction during the term, includes injunctive relief intended to prevent further workplace discrimination. JPL has agreed to retain an EEO monitor, a diversity director and a layoff coordinator to monitor compliance with the ADEA and this decree, and ensure that JPL takes no further action that has a disparate impact on employees in the protected age group. JPL will also review and, if necessary, revise policies and procedures against all discrimination under the ADEA. Further, JPL agreed to provide training to all employees on age discrimination and report to the EEOC on recruitment, hiring, layoffs, terminations and complaints about age discrimin­ation, along with the monitoring of such complaints to prevent retaliation. The EEOC will monitor compliance with this agreement.

“We commend JPL for its willingness to commit to compliance with the ADEA, for already making proactive efforts to implement much of the injunctive relief, and for taking measures that will have a positive impact on older employees,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District. “We encourage other employers to follow JPL’s lead and review their hiring and recruitment policies and practices to make sure they are in compliance with federal law.”

Rosa Viramontes, director of the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, added, “Age discrimin­ation is detrimental to companies that can benefit from the experience and expertise of older workers. We are encouraged that JPL has taken the allegations seriously and has agreed to measures that will benefit the workplace.”

JPL is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center in La Cañada Flintridge / Pasadena, Calif. Founded in 1936 and named JPL in 1943, the facility is owned by NASA and managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for NASA. When JPL was transferred to NASA in December 1958, it became the space agency’s primary planetary spacecraft center. JPL engineers designed and operated Ranger and Surveyor missions to the Moon that prepared the way for Apollo. The laboratory’s primary function now is the construction and operation of planetary robotic spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Eliminating barriers in recruitment, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, gender, and people with disa­bilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employ­ment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.