Judge partially grants Berry Petroleum's motion to dismiss former employee's age discrimination suit

By Payton Kuhn | Apr 10, 2019

FRESNO – A federal judge has ruled to grant in part an energy company's motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a former employee over age discrimination allegations.

Judge Dale A. Drozd of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California ruled March 5 to dismiss plaintiff Michael Wyland's age-based harassment, failure to take reasonable steps to prevent age-based harassment, meal and rest break, improper wage statements, Private Attorneys General Act, intentional infliction of emotional distress and wrongful termination claims of action against Berry Petroleum Co.

Drozd denied Berry's motion to dismiss Wyland's claims of age discrimination, that the defendant failed to take reasonable steps to prevent harassment and discrimination and wrongful termination in violation of public policy, stating the plaintiff stated a cognizable claim on those counts.

The suit began in September of last year when Wyland sued Berry in the Kern County Superior Court citing 11 claims. Berry later removed the suit to the federal court citing diversity of citizenship jurisdiction, and Wyland filed his first amended complaint in November 2018.

The ruling states that Wyland worked at Berry as an operator on its oil reserves from 1994 until his termination on May 21, 2018, at the age of 57. Wyland alleged that in 2017 when Berry assigned Michael Smith to be his direct supervisor that he was immediately subjected to age-based ridicule from Smith, including name-calling and unwarranted discipline. 

Wyland alleged in May 2018, Smith singled him out for not following company protocol regarding a contained overflow of an oil tank. Wyland claims the incident, which he asserts he was not solely responsible for, was used as an opportunity for Smith to single him out and eventually terminate him. 

Wyland, who says he met all the requirements of expected employees throughout his tenure, claims these actions were a part of concerted effort from Berry to root out its older-aged staff, as similar actions from younger colleagues were not met with the same ridicule that Wyland experienced.

Wyland now has 14 days from the date of the order to file an amended complaint.

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