A Sticky Situation for 3M

Last week, 3M, known for its Post-It Notes, masking tape, waterproof sandpaper, and Scotch brand tapes settled a claim brought by several hundred former employees who accused the company of age discrimination.

The claim alleged that 3M terminated many highly paid older employees and directed leadership training to younger employees.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said its investigation found an e-mail which describes then-CEO Jim McNernery’s “vision for leadership development as “we should be developing 30 year olds with General Manager potential.”

The consent decree, that still requires judicial approval, said 3M will pay $3 million to about 290 former employees and must also provide training on how to prevent age bias and establish a new process for termination decisions.

For employers who make decisions to terminate in a similar situation, they should consider whether there was a legitimate business reason for the decision to terminate, whether they have treated similarly-situated younger employees in the same manner, and if they haven’t, whether there is a good explanation for the difference in treatment.

If an employer can’t affirmatively answer those questions, they may find themselves in a similar situation as 3M.