Age discrimination lawsuit filed against General Mills

Fourteen former General Mills employees are suing the company, claiming the older they were, the more likely they were to get laid off back in 2012.

General Mills called it Project Refuel, a fancy name with a sad underbelly with 850 employees losing their jobs in mass layoffs in 2012. Among those employees were a Ph.D, an attorney and a food scientist.

Attorney Steve Snyder said his clients had one thing in common: They were over the age of 40.

According to their lawsuit, those older employees were terminated at a rate "more than 4 times higher than" younger employees.

"This is the strongest statistical correlation I've seen between age and rates of termination," Snyder said.

A chart in the complaint, if true, shows that workers in their 20s or 30s had a very small chance of getting laid off, but they older they were the greater the odds -- a more than 20 percent termination rate for workers in their 60s laid off.

"They had been asked to hire, or been asked to train their replacements. For anyone that has experienced age discrimination in the workplace, they recognized that as a real worrisome matter,"

The complaint also points to an evaluation system used by General Mills that looks similar, called the 9-box system. It allows the company to classify employees based on their "potential."

General Mills sent Fox 9 the following statement:

"We are aware of the lawsuit and these claims. The individuals are all former employees impacted by restructuring that occurred more than two years ago. The company stands by its employment decisions and sees no merit to these claims."

The lawsuit also alleges that another round of layoffs starting last December may also be discriminatory, General Mills called it Project Catalyst.