by Jocelyn Parker
Detroit Free Press
DEARBORN, MI — More than 50 former employees of Visteon Corp. have filed a lawsuit against the $18-billion auto-parts supplier, claiming that the company conned them into signing non-negotiable separation agreements that they later learned were negotiable for more compensation.
The multimillion-dollar suit, filed last week in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan, says that Visteon presented 54 workers with separation contracts in April 2001 after the Dearborn, Mich.-based company announced that it would cut its white-collar workforce.
After receiving the agreements, workers were told that they would receive 12 months of their base salary if they signed the release, but only three months if they didn’t sign, according to the suit. The majority signed the release, according to Don Gasiorek, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs.
Employees were each advised in writing that the benefit plan couldn’t be changed, Gasiorek said.
Visteon “went through a process of identifying people they wanted to eliminate and sat them down on April 4 of 2001,” Gasiorek said. “They presented them with a separation package.”
However, Gasiorek said that he learned late last year that some workers were able to negotiate the details of their departures, receiving extra compensation when they left the company. Some workers, for instance, got paid for extra time on the payroll.
Gasiorek claims the move was a violation of the Employment Retirement and Income Security Act, which said that the company had to act in the best interest of its employees. Visteon’s employee separation program is operated under ERISA, Gasiorek said.
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