Solyndra settles with fired workers for $3.5 million

August 13, 2012 5:47:22 PM PDT
Solyndra, the bankrupt solar panel company in Fremont that defaulted on a huge federal energy loan, has agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement for abruptly firing its workers last year.

Solyndra has agreed to pay their former employees $3.5 million. That's a relatively small amount considering it owes the federal government over $500 million that went into the building and the assembly line inside, but employees still say it's a major victory. They showed up for work one morning and were shocked to find out 1,000 of them had lost their jobs, laid off without a warning despite a federal law that requires a 60-day notice when more than 50 employees will be impacted.

Peter Kohlstadt, a four-year Solyndra employee, will be one of the 1,000 to share in the $3.5 million settlement. "I'm happy. I'm happy for the employees, that finally, they get some closure and that we get what's due to us, basically," the engineer told ABC7 News. A few days later, the company filed for bankruptcy. In his original lawsuit, he said the employees lost pay and benefits while top executives got bonuses to stay on. Kohlstadt says the settlement sends an important message. "Have something in place. You don't just drop the people that made your company. You have something in place that they can rely on. We put in all the hard work. Make sure they're not just dropped," he said.

Because of the bankruptcy, it's not certain how much money the employees will get. Steven Cohn is a civil rights attorney in San Jose who specializes in employment disputes. "Certainly in any bankruptcy, secured creditors come first. Employee wages come after that. And then somewhere in the mix, comes judgments and negotiated resolution," he said.

The head of the South Bay Labor Council welcomed the Solyndra settlement. Executive Director Cindy Chavez says employees need to be treated fairly. "It is an opportunity for all employers to look around and see that we've got to treat people in our community with fairness. But the other is, this was reckless," she said.

ABC7 News contacted Solynra's lead bankruptcy attorney in San Francisco, Debra Grassgreen, for the company's comments on the settlement. She said, "No comment."


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