A group of former workers at the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant in Fremont filed a class-action lawsuit today against NUMMI and Toyota alleging that their severance package discriminates against injured and disabled employees.
Tony Lawson, the lead attorney in the suit, which was filed in federal court in Oakland, said NUMMI's severance package provided a base payout of $21,175 to each worker plus an enhancement for additional thousands of dollars, but the enhancement was only for employees who worked between October 2009 and April 2010.
Lawson said the bonus enhancement increases depending on workers' years of service, and the average amount is $32,000.
Lawson said that under the severance agreement, workers who were on medical or other leave during the last six months of the plant's operation before it closed on April 1 are not entitled to the enhancement, no matter how long they had worked at the plant.
He said it is estimated that more than 300 workers with disabilities were denied the bonus enhancement.
The lawsuit also claims that disabled workers were denied transitional employment services such as career and skills assessments.
NUMMI opened in 1984 and was a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors, but GM withdrew from the partnership last year. Toyota decided to close the auto plant on April 1.
The move threw 4,700 union employees out of work and also affected thousands of employees at suppliers around the state.
Tesla Motors and Toyota announced on May 20 that they're forming a partnership to build electric cars at the former NUMMI site. Tesla says the new production, which is expected to start in 2012, will create about 1,000 jobs initially.