Brunswick Corp has agreed to pay US$2.18m in back bonus pay to 409 former Mercury Marine employees at its shuttered Stillwater, Oklahoma, MerCruiser manufacturing facility, ending a nine-year-old class action lawsuit.
In 2009, the Mercury Marine employees filed suit alleging that the company had promised, but did not pay, bonus income for meeting certain objectives and criteria during the previous year, violating Oklahoma’s Protection and Labor Act.
Plaintiff’s attorneys argued bonuses completed based on an agreement between employer and employee should be considered as regular wages. Brunswick, Mercury Marine’s parent company, argued that the bonuses should not be covered by the act.
A lower trial court agreed with Brunswick, but attorneys for the employees got the case before the Court of Civil Appeals, which not only allowed the suit to proceed, but more than doubled the size of the class by adding 225 employees. “That’s probably what made MerCruiser and Brunswick stand up and take notice,” class counsel attorney Guy Fortney told the Stillwater News Press.
The bonuses covered 2008 – the last full year of production – and the phase-out and shutdown of the Stillwater plant from 2009 to 2011, when sterndrive manufacturing was relocated to the company’s Fond du Lac, Wisconsin headquarters.