PORTLAND, Maine — Shaw’s Supermarket is seeking to move a possible class action lawsuit filed by former workers who claimed they were let go because of their age from state to federal court.
An attorney on behalf of Shaw’s Supermarket Inc. filed a notice of removal to federal court late Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland. The case originally was filed in May in Androscoggin County Superior Court on behalf of four former employees who maintain they represent a class of older workers who lost their jobs because of a layoff policy implemented by the grocery store chain.
The Maine Human Rights Commission had unanimously voted in January that there were reasonable grounds to believe Shaw’s discriminated against three workers who had filed claims. The commission ruled Shaw’s implemented a layoff policy that had an adverse impact based on the age of employees.
Attempts to reach a settlement failed in February and the lawsuit by Deborah Lincoln, Theresa Charrette, Dorothy Riley, Lorraine Scamman and Peter Harriman was filed in May. The lawsuit asks that these five former workers represent the entire class of older people who were terminated by Shaw’s.
The five former workers were all terminated from their jobs in November 2012 as part of companywide layoffs.
Lincoln, a Rockland resident, had worked at the Shaw’s store in Rockland for eight years. She was 50 when she lost her job.
Charrette of Sanford had worked at a variety of Shaw’s stores for 34 years and was 55 when she was terminated while working at the store in Sanford.
Riley of Windham had worked at Shaw’s for 31 years at a variety of stores. She was 59 when she lost her job at the Westbrook store.
Harriman of Gorham had worked at a variety of Shaw’s stores for 30 years. He was 54 when he was terminated from his job at the Westgate Mall in Portland.
Scamman of Scarborough had worked at the Saco store for 32 years. She was 52 when she was terminated.
Shaw’s employed 19,000 people throughout New England, including nearly 1,100 in Maine, according to the lawsuit. In November 2012, 700 people were terminated, including about 110 in Maine. The lawsuit states Shaw’s only considered full-time employees when it terminated workers and that this tended to impact older workers more than younger ones.
The lawsuit points out that Shaw’s retained younger part-time workers when they terminated the older full-time workers. One example listed in court papers was the termination of cashiers. Seven full-time cashiers were terminated in Maine, and 126 part-time cashiers were younger than those full-time workers who were terminated. The lawsuit lists several other types of jobs at the stores where younger part-time workers were retained while older full-time workers were terminated.
The lawsuit further contends that the people who were terminated were only notified if full-time jobs became available and not part-time jobs.
The lawsuit seeks class action designation, saying the experiences of the employees listed in the lawsuit are similar to what all other workers terminated.
Attorney Jeffrey Young of Augusta, who represents the former workers, said while he cannot speak for Shaw’s that sometimes defendants in potential class action cases prefer federal court because they feel state judges and juries might be more sympathetic to Maine clients than a federal judge and jury.
Young said the state court had not yet designated the case as a class action one but said he was confident it will qualify for class action status.
The lawsuit seeks economic and noneconomic damages, as well as for the workers to be returned to comparable positions.
A January 2013 article published in Litigation and Trial by attorney Max Kennerly stated defendants tend to prefer going to federal court in class action suits because the rules of evidence are more favorable, because more motions to dismiss are granted and there are more urban jurors who tend to award less money when damages are imposed.
An email message was sent Monday night to Shaw’s attorney Joshua Scott of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A telephone call also was left Tuesday morning but was not immediately returned.