Select Page

You’ve heard of Watergate, of course, and are likely familiar with other public matters grounded in scandal that are coined with terms ending in a “gate” suffix.

How about Dieselgate?

Many Ohioans might not reasonably note the origins of that scandal. They will likely pick up on the reference immediately, though, with mention of the German automaker Volkswagen. That company was assessed a huge criminal fine a few years back for its vehicle software that camouflaged pollution-causing emission rates.

Although Volkswagen certainly wants to turn the corner on that chapter of company history, it received a bit of bad news late last month that will now sorely test its public relations team.

That news came in the form of a lawsuit, specifically a federal class action filing alleging purposeful discrimination against older company workers.

Volkswagen will of course vigorously defend against that claim. In doing so, though, it will have to deal with an company announcement made last year that could undercut its cause, or at minimum invite close judicial scrutiny.

The federal complaint spotlights that language, noting the carmaker’s stated expectation for its management team “to become younger and slimmer” and for the company to provide “new motivation for junior managers.”

The class action claim – brought by one older worker who was demoted from his position as an assistant manager – contends that Volkswagen’s strategy to rebrand itself as a younger and more vigorous company intentionally discriminates against workers over 50. The litigation seeks class certification for a potentially large group of affected claimants.

We will keep readers fully informed of any material developments that occur in the case.