Brunswick settles lawsuit over unpaid bonuses

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Brunswick Corp. reached a settlement with former MerCruiser plant employees in Stillwater, Okla., on a class-action lawsuit filed nine years ago. The lawsuit was filed over unpaid bonuses from 2008-11. According to the Stillwater News-Press, Brunswick agreed to pay $2.18 million to cover the bonuses of 409 workers.

In 2009, Mercury Marine workers filed a lawsuit saying that the company had promised bonus income in 2008 for meeting certain targets. The workers’ attorney argued that the non-payment violated Oklahoma’s Protection and Labor Act. Brunswick argued that the bonuses should not be covered by the act.

“It was pretty clear that this all occurred right at or around the financial crisis of 2008,” attorney Guy Fortney, who represented the workers, told the paper. “The 2008 bonuses are wages that were paid on a fairly regular basis with MerCruiser. They always had an annual bonus that occurred for the hourly employees, and you had to participate. There was a summary of the plan, and employees had to hit certain objectives and goals in order to be eligible for the bonuses.

“Those goals and objectives were really facility-wide — not have accidents, meet certain production goals and those sorts of things. Those metrics would be looked at over the year to determine the amount of the bonus.”

Fortney said the company decided it was more important to preserve cash during the downturn in 2008 than pay the bonuses. The lower trial court agreed with Brunswick. But the Court of Civil Appeals sided with the workers, citing circumstances around the eventual shutdown of the facility and other bonuses associated with the Stillwater plant closure. The higher court eventually added another 225 workers to the class action lawsuit.

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