DETROIT (AP) — A class-action lawsuit filed against Ford Motor Co. for alleged age discrimination is gaining support from the nation's largest advocacy group for people over the age of 50.
The Washington-based AARP plans to provide research, free legal services and attorneys to litigate the case, The Detroit News reported Sunday.
About 60 Ford middle managers filed suit in Wayne County state court in May, charging that Ford's employee-ranking system is being used to sweep out older workers. The automaker denies the allegation.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs and AARP are completing an agreement to jointly handle the lawsuit — but both sides say it's a formality. AARP agreed to add its legal resources after reviewing the case.
"We only get involved in cases we think are important and will set a precedent for the future," said Laurie McCann, head of AARP Foundation Litigation. "This could be a very important case."
Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said the automaker had no comment about AARP's decision to get involved, but said "Ford does not discriminate in any way, shape or form."
At issue is Ford's evaluation policy for its top 18,000 managers and executives, which is similar to the scholastic practice of grading students on a curve.
Under Ford's policy instituted in January 2000, 10 percent of employees receive A grades, 80 percent get Bs and 10 percent receive Cs. The policy was altered this year so that only 5 percent of employees must receive C grades.
Those who receive Cs are not eligible for a raise or bonus, and a C grade for two consecutive years is grounds for demotion or termination.
The grading system spawned several reverse-discrimination lawsuits brought by white males, in addition to the age discrimination claim.