Jul 25, 2008

Lab Workers Awarded $12 Million

By Sarah Welsh, Rio Grande SUN Assistant News Editor

A group of women and Hispanic men who in 2006 settled a class-action discrimination lawsuit against the Los Alamos National Laboratory have finally received their payout — $12 million divided proportionately among 3,186 class members, and another $4.4 million for their lawyers, according to an attorney for the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit alleged that women and Hispanic men were routinely paid less than their white male counterparts, and were overlooked for promotions.

"This is one of the largest such lawsuits in New Mexico that there's ever been in this state, and one of the most important considering the very primary role that the Laboratory has in Northern New Mexico and the work force," plaintiffs' attorney John Bienvenu said.

Class representative Yvonne Ebelacker, of Santa Clara Pueblo, said most plaintiffs received their settlement checks in early July. Those checks were reportedly between $1,500 and $10,000, based on a formula that determined each employee's share of lost pay, Ebelacker said.

Ebelacker said she personally received about $120,000 back in November 2007, because she was one of the five main plaintiffs who originated the lawsuit — along with Laura Barber, of Santa Fe, Yolanda Garcia, of ChimayĆ³, Loyda Martinez, of Santa Cruz, and Gloria Bennett, of Los Alamos. Lab spokesman Steve Sandoval said each of those five women received $123,500.

Ebelacker said she had to pay $38,000 in taxes on the settlement, and it wasn't really worth putting herself on the line during the six-year struggle.

"What did I land out with for putting up with all I did?," Ebelacker said. "Nothing, really. In the long run that's why people say class actions are very hard, because the haul is long and what you get out of it is very minimal."

Ebelacker said she worked in procurement at the Lab for 30 years; she left in 2003 while the lawsuit was ongoing.

"You get to a certain point in your career, and you start getting the feeling sometimes that they don't think you're important anymore, or valuable," Ebelacker said. "In my case there was retaliation and stuff, because they made life really hard there."

The case began in December 2003, when Barber and Veronique Longmire filed a federal class-action suit claiming there was documented, widespread gender discrimination in pay and promotions at the Lab, court documents state. Garcia, Martinez, Bennett and Ebelacker filed a separate class-action suit in state District Court in January 2004 on behalf of Hispanic female employees.

The two cases were eventually consolidated, and throughout 2004 another 59 women joined as plaintiffs, including state Rep. Debbie Rodella (D-La Mesilla). Rodella did not return calls seeking comment.

Bienvenu said the plaintiffs' case was built on a statistical analysis of the Lab's salary structure. Although the negotiated settlement was fair, it still only compensated for part of the losses that employees suffered, Bienvenu said. According to court documents, all class members — defined as women and Hispanic men who were employed by the Lab between Dec. 10, 2000, and June 1, 2006 — were eligible to receive a portion of the settlement if they submitted a valid claim form. The size of the class was estimated at approximately 5,500 people.

In settling the case the University of California, which held the Lab's management contract during the period in question, did not admit the existence of any gender or race-related pay discrepancies, citing policies against discrimination, court documents state. Any such disparities were the result of "legitimate business factors unrelated to sex or race," court documents state.

Sandoval noted in an e-mail that after the case was settled, Lab management was transferred to Los Alamos National Security, a consortium that includes the University and three private companies.

"(Los Alamos National Security) is committed to implementing best business practices, including developing employees and creating a work environment to achieve employee and Laboratory success," Sandoval wrote.

The transition to a new contractor foiled the plaintiffs' attempt to write binding, long-term policy changes into the settlement agreement, court documents state. The limited terms contained in the agreement include an initiative to equalize pay for internal and external hires, manager training in equal-employment and diversity, provision of child care and other prescriptives.

"If the contract hadn't changed out, one of our goals in our lawsuit had been to where we wanted policy changes," Ebelacker said. "Our lawyers told us basically we can't hold a new entity to anything, because they're not part of the lawsuit."

After the Fact
Ebelacker said she believes the discrimination she experienced stems from inadequate job training. Everyone knows the way to make money at the Lab is to move into a management position, but people who receive promotions are often not prepared to responsibly lead or manage employees, she said.

"My personal feeling is they have a lot of supervisors that are not trained in management, and trained as supervisors," Ebelacker said. "I think that's where it starts."

In response, Sandoval repeated his earlier assertion.

"This specific allegation — insufficient training — wasn't litigated per se, but for the reason stated above, we feel that the Lab and (Los Alamos National Security) is committed to ensuring that all employees receive all required training," Sandoval wrote.

Bienvenu said if an employee, whether at a public or private entity, believes they have been discriminated against, they should seek an attorney's advice and assistance. He or she should also abide by all internal grievance policies, and consider contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the state Labor Department's Human Rights Division, Bienvenu said.

The Commission's Albuquerque office can be reached at (505) 248-5201; the numbers for the Division office in Santa Fe are 827-6838 or (800) 566-9471.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

what a bunch of bull.... all SSMs (old series title) and Techs should get money for discrimination since the lab only rewards education and job experience for TSMs.

Anonymous said...

4:18PM - no they don't. Women across the lab, even TSMs and managers, are dicriminated against. WHy else would the two women managers - of equal education and experience to their male peers - get paid 20K less than the men. This kind of discrimination is currently being played out in the TSM salary alignment. Men of equal experience are being placed as TSM-4/5 and the women TSM-3/4. Things will never change, but please don't think it is just the SSMs and Techs.

Anonymous said...

Geez, Loyda again! Does she ever do anything useful?

Anonymous said...

Undoubtedly there are women who deserved to be remedied in a case like this, but Ebelacker and Martinez? Both are marginal employees with long histories of complaining incessantly about anything and everything. It's inconceivable that each would be paid $123,500 from this settlement while women, in general, only get between $1,500 to $10,000. This has got to be a typo. Could it be Martinez and Ebelacker actually received $12,350 and not the $123,500 reported? Does anyone know for sure?

Anonymous said...

It is customary for the people who actually begin a lawsuit, go to court, have their names out there for critics (see disparaging posts above) to get a higher payout. These women took a great risk- and most are no longer with the lab. Go figure.

The presiding judge looked at the broad LANL payroll data and chose to include general employees who did not file or even show up to court as 'class-action' parties. The second group took no risks- and so the piece of the payout that they split was from a smaller pot. Seems fair enough trade-off.

12:00 pm Personally, I admire anyone brave enough to take on LANL and demand change. So I think this was very useful.

Anonymous said...

How did they come up with the $123K amount? What makes them worth that much? Loyda’s not even worth a tenth of that. Let’s hope Mrs. Orval Ebelacker is. Not likely though.

Anonymous said...

"What did I land out with for putting up with all I did?," Ebelacker said. "Nothing, really. In the long run that's why people say class actions are very hard, because the haul is long and what you get out of it is very minimal."

She thinks $123,500 is nothing? If you've ever worked with this person you'd know she's about as dumb as a bag of hammers. And she still thinks she's worth more?!

Anonymous said...

The listed plaintiffs always get more as they take the risks. Getting $123k is actually on the low side of this type of lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

The listed plaintiffs always get more as they take the risks. Getting $123k is actually on the low side of this type of lawsuit.
--7/26/08 2:50 PM

What a bunch of BS. This was excessive anyway you cut it!

Anonymous said...

Here's a Walmart settlement:
http://www.eeoc.gov/press/1-7-00-b.html

"Each will be paid $ 66,250.."

Compare that with the $123,500 paid here. No comparison.

Anonymous said...

7/26/08 2:34 PM said:
"Personally, I admire anyone brave enough to take on LANL and demand change."

This is probably the shared wisdom of Loyda the self serving crusader for truth (or one of her hidden accomplices). Not likely the sentiments of Yvonne “Gimme More” Ebelacker however.

Anonymous said...

The "hatred" that is expressed here is disheartening. This is the very reason this institution and our country are in such shambles. You breed on hatred!

Anonymous said...

7/26/08 12:00 PM

Do you every do anything useful other than breed hate!

Anonymous said...

7/26/08 2:38 PM

You shouldn't judge others until you take a good look at yourself. What makes you think you are worth anything considering your comments on this post?

Anonymous said...

The real self-serving individuals are the attorneys. They got $4.5M for accomplishing nothing according to Ms. Ebelacker.

Anonymous said...

The issue isn’t the settlement, but what created the situation that led to it and at what price to the institution, the workforce and the community. This case was one more consequence of an arrogant leadership rooted in ineffective oversight by a parent. The parent—UC, set the stage for all the scandals that pried open the doors to LANS in other words. It was UCs lack of oversight that enabled the security scandals, the safety debacles, the procurement fraud, the mistreatment of women and minorities to occur for years and perhaps decades. And when it became apparent that UC no longer had the political support in Congress to continue as the sole overseer of the Labs, it sold its soul to the industrial complex devil. It jumped in bed with this consortium we now call LANS. And so at what cost did UC maintain its hold on these Labs? Look at the mission of the Los Alamos Lab now. It’s no longer science we’re focused on, but on pit production. Look at the condition of the workforce now—forever fearful, suspicious of each other and, always cognizant that they now are simply at will employees. Look at the condition of the business community of Los Alamos--no longer a partner of the Lab, but now always standing on the outside of the glass looking in. And what about our life long investment in our retirement and in our housing? Both have diminished in value dramatically in the wake of UCs failure to be an effective steward the national labs it was entrusted with for over 50 years. So who are the winners in all this turmoil? The military industrial complex is an obvious winner, as is the UC holdouts who remain as top level managers at the Lab to this day. The bus driver who crashed the bus in other words, is still in the driver’s seat. UC in other words, is still in charge. How about the attorneys? They always get a big share of the spoils as well, don’t they? The four or five plaintiffs involved in this case certainly made off like bandits and maybe we’re jealous of them. Or maybe we’re not. Bottom line is we all have paid a very high price because UC is directly responsible for the numerous fiascos that brought us to this point in the Lab’s history. So perhaps we should be focusing our anger where it belongs now…not on the likes of Loyda Martinez or Yovonne Ebelacker who obviously took advantage of the situation made available them, but on those that created the situation for them. And they’re still in charge.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how any of the views expressed here translate into hate mongering. It's likely neither Martinez nor Ebelacker were altruistic in their motives. They were, as suggested earlier, opportunists that perhaps had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time. But did women's salaries at the Lab get adjusted in any way because of this lawsuit? I sure haven’t seen it. Did attitudes change? Not likely. So what then changed besides the bank accounts for these two and their attorneys? Not a thing as far as I can see. I appreciate the time and effort invested, but I don't appreciate the result which ended up being more self-serving than anything else. I'm sure there are many others that feel the same way.

Anonymous said...

7/27/08 3:32 PM

You won't be able to see "hatred" if it was right in front of you! Self-serving??? Hmmm, you're most likely a closet white supremesit living in Los Alamos.

Anonymous said...

to 3:32...you're looking in the wrong place and placing the responsibility for chage at the feet of those who brought this action and were successful at forcing the ab to settle. You do understand the concept of a settlement, don't you? It means that the Lab isn't interested in going to trial so the other side can show evidence which becomes public, for everyone to see how poorly the so called management has screwed the majority of the workers for years. A group of people had the courage and the to challenge the sorry state of affairs and te Lab decided it didn't want any more publicity. Yours and the other disparate commentary about some of the individuals that were the named parties in the suit are caustic. The individuals that I have worked with that were part of this initially are good people in general trying like everyone else at the lab to make an appropriate wage for the work they do relative to their peers doing the same job. Most of the so called management is better at the science they used to do than actually managing people and processes. The only other thing they are good at is making you miserable at you job if you disagree with them, forcing you out and then promoting each other. Based on the outcome of the lawsuits, it's a pretty good bet that if you're looking for change, it starts with managers who are serious about change, treat people with respect- TSM, SSM, Tech, etc. and lead by example. The same old managers are still around. These are same that have been the perpetrators and have given the Lab a bad name. The mere fact that not only are most of these idiots still around, they continue to get promoted. Part of LANL's management stlye is to cover up the inept managers by moving them to a position of more responsibility and pay, but with less direct personnel interaction believing that somehow-someway, they'll get better without all of that extra baggage of actually dealing with people.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this thread is really unbelievable. If you question the amount, or the justice of the awards, you are "hate-filled". I don't even know these people, how can I "hate" them? I do notice however, that it is the rhetoric of the accusers of "hate" that is the most hateful.

Also, there is an extreme degree of ignorance and misunderstanding about LANL, and LANS, and the contract. 11:41 am in particular is so bent over with hate that he/she is wrapped up in nonsense that no one who has any ability to access the truth should be spouting. It does make me doubt the ability to reason or to respect truth among certain elements of the LANL workforce. Perhaps Northern New Mexico would be better off if LANL were gone.

Anonymous said...

5:24 PM - get off the racist pedastool - you have a job because of the people at Los Alamos. Not everone up on the hill hates non-whites. Get over yourself!

Anonymous said...

"7/27/08 3:32 PM

You won't be able to see "hatred" if it was right in front of you! Self-serving??? Hmmm, you're most likely a closet white supremesit living in Los Alamos.

7/27/08 5:24 PM"

Hey, Los Alamos is really a nice place and is the least racist place I have ever lived. Of course every place in the United States can improve and I hope it does. But before you get on the case of Los Alamos try living in Southern California or New York. Just driving in certain neighborhoods can cause non-whites to be harassed. I have never had that happen to me in Los Alamos. Do you think the 1992 LA riots came out of nowhere?

As for the settlement, they won the case in a court of law and I hope it makes the playing field more even for everyone as it should be.

Anonymous said...

The plaintiffs here were not at all exemplary or even "normal" employees. Bennet, in spite of a PhD, was a marginel engineer. As a supervisor, she was a screamer in the Nanos class and had to be removed from supervisory positions more than once. If anything, she was greatly over-compensated.

Anonymous said...

One of the things that nobody wants to discuss is the disparity of sick leave and personel leave of the women relative to the men. The fact is that, on the average, the women take quite a bit more sick leave than the man. And, this does not include pregnancy leave. This excess sick
leave is due to the women always being stuck dealing with the children. When the kid gets sick, it is the woman that stays home.
Along with that, while the women must leave at 3PM to pick up the kids from school, then men stay until 6PM. The consequence is that the productivity of the men and thus their salaries are higher.

It's not entirely fair, but it is not LANL's fault that the women cannot make their husbands shoulder their share of the family duties.

Anonymous said...

...then men stay until 6PM...

LOL, like that happens. Try 4PM.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how you can draw a large conclusion between 3 hrs extra work hours = more productivity . I know plenty of personnel who put in their 9 hours a day and f*ck around for half of them, including a lot of men. So please, do not portray all women as slackers who have to pick up their children and stay home all the time with sick kids. Do not throw stones at glass houses.

Anonymous said...

So what do you all say we nominate Loyda and her sidekick Yvonne for sainthood. Just kidding. Actually, I grew up with one of them and believe me, she's anything but a saint. These two did what they did for themselves and only themselves. How the lawsuit was resolved speaks volumes. They were, as someone earlier pointed out, in the right place at the right time and that's about it. Beyond that, it was never really about changing things for the better at the Laboratory. If it had been, the results would have been quite different. So there. Now get over it.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to throw stones when you're doing it anonymously. Why don't you identify yourself if you're so bold to speak so negatively of these individuals?

Are you that jealous of them? Of course, because you probably have been an outcast all your life and don't even have any friends that would admit it publicly!

Stand up buddy!

Anonymous said...

7/29/08 5:42 PM

This blogger is likely the individual that was unethical throughout the lawsuit and didn't get what they wanted! The strategy here is, let's discredit the class representatives that identified themselves boldly, unlike you, that hide behind an organization.

Anonymous said...

7/29/08 5:42 PM

Did you feel that you were in it for yourself when you went to cash your check from the lawsuit? Or did you feel it wasn't enough considering that you didn't risk your career and/or was subjected to retaliation from Managers because of the lawsuit? In it for who again? YOU!

Anonymous said...

These comments clearly point to "racial discrimination" something that continues to be subtle at the Laboratory but evident. There are five class representatives and the only non-minority woman namely "Laura Barber" is never attacked as the others are. Why is that, if not bigotry!

Anonymous said...

because a few of the class representatives have never done anything in their entire careers other than enhance discrimination by their own racist behavior and demeanor in the workplace. LM.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on - claiming that a settlement payment is bogus isn't invalidated by the fact that most recipients are Hispanic. The fact that one recipient wasn't mentioned by name could simply mean that she is the one who hasn't made an issue of herself. Most of the others seem to have garnered some significant ill will among those they have interacted with in the past.

Anonymous said...

Please continue to justify your terrible behaviors. As once said very profoundly, come judgement day they will pay!

Anonymous said...

7/30/08 8:03 PM

I assume you have never enhanced discrmination by your own racist behavior? Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!