Cases & Deals

CBS obtains summary judgment in age discrimination case

Client(s) CBS Corporation

Jones Day defended CBS Corporation against claims of age discrimination brought by former employees who lost their jobs during the 1990s as part of corporate downsizing and restructuring.

On June 25, 2010, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment in favor of Jones Day's client CBS Corporation. The plaintiffs - all of whom had been employed by either the former Westinghouse Electric Corporation (which became CBS Corporation) or former subsidiaries of Westinghouse - had previously been members of a nationwide collective ADEA action that decertified in December 2002 upon Jones Day's successful motion. Following decertification, dozens of former collective-action members filed individual lawsuits, each of which was ruled untimely. Plaintiffs then attempted to excuse their untimely filing under the doctrine of "equitable tolling," claiming that they had been "actively misled" as to the existence of their age discrimination claims because at the time of their terminations in the 1990s, Westinghouse failed to provide plaintiffs, along with their discharge documents, demographic data required by law in certain circumstances. That data was, however, made available upon request.

On summary judgment, Jones Day argued on behalf of CBS that Westinghouse's alleged failure to provide the demographic data did not entitle plaintiffs to equitable tolling, because such an omission, without more, is insufficient to show that Westinghouse had actively sought to deceive plaintiffs about potential legal claims.

The District Court agreed with Jones Day's arguments, holding that while plaintiffs may have been entitled to certain demographic data when they were terminated, they had failed to provide any evidence that the data would have shown age discrimination, or that Westinghouse's failure to provide that data was part of an intentional plan to deceive plaintiffs. The Court held that because none of the plaintiffs had the necessary proof of "active misleading" required for equitable tolling, their claims remain untimely. The Court thus granted summary judgment in CBS's favor on all of the plaintiffs' claims. The Court's ruling is a critical step in concluding nearly 15 years of litigation involving the same plaintiffs.

Barrett v. Viacom, Inc., Successor by Merger to CBS Corp., f.k.a. Westinghouse Electric Corp., No. 04-0608 (W.D. Pa.)