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Motor home builds

In this December 2008 photo, workers build motor homes on one of the lines at Winnebago Industries Inc.’s main manufacturing facility in Forest City.

Six former employees at Winnebago Industries' in Forest City are suing the RV maker for discrimination, claiming they were fired and replaced by younger employees. 

Some of the former workers say they also were fired because they had a disability or had made complaints against Winnebago, according to a petition filed last week in Winnebago County District Court. 

The former employees named Gary McCarthy with the human resources department at the Forest City plant and John Breuklander, the head of the maintenance department, as defendants in the lawsuit, along with the company. 

The plaintiffs in the suit, who are represented by the Roxanne Conlin & Associates law firm in Des Moines, are Mark Brackey, James Clark, Barb Garza, Mark Haverly, Scott McColloch and Julie Stecker.

Each of them filed a charge of employment discrimination with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission against Winnebago Industries and received a letter of right-to-sue, according to the lawsuit. 

Sam Jefson, public relations specialist at Winnebago, told the Globe Gazette the company does not comment on pending litigation against it. 

The plaintiffs claim they were among 35 employees, "almost all of whom were older," who had their employment terminated by Winnebago, Breuklander and McCarthy at the end of July 2018, the lawsuit states. 

When Brackey, a machine technician, asked why he was fired, he was not given a reason other than Winnebago needed to "get rid of" some employees, according to the lawsuit.

The day after Brackey was fired, his position was filled by a 22-year-old, the lawsuit states. 

Clark, a maintenance mechanic, injured his knee in the spring of 2018 and had to miss work, according to the lawsuit.

Clark received his semi-annual performance review from his direct supervisor in June. 

The lawsuit alleges Brueklander told Clark's supervisor that Clark could no longer receive above average ratings on his performance reviews. 

When Clark learned about this and received his performance evaluation in mid-July, he complained to his supervisor, according to the lawsuit. 

Around the same time, Clark told Breukelander he might require another knee surgery pending an upcoming MRI. 

The suit alleges that when Clark was permanently laid off several weeks later, he was never given a reason for it. 

The week before Clark's employment was terminated, Winnebago hired a younger person in the same department, according to the lawsuit. 

Garza, a maintenance stock handler, had COPD, which can impair a person's ability to breathe, the lawsuit states. 

In 2014 her doctor prohibited her from working in her current work environment because it involved spray glue, according to the petition. 

Shortly before she was let go from the Winnebago, Garza allegedly made a verbal complaint to a whistleblower phone line about upper management getting lots of compensation time, leaving early without clocking out and taking days off while still getting paid. 

When she asked why her employment was being terminated, McCarthy allegedly told her she was doing "an excellent job," but she could not be moved to another department. 

Haverly, a mechanic at Winnebago's truck shop, suffered an on-the-job injury that left him with a permanent partial disability, according to the lawsuit. 

The Winnebago corporation denied his claim for workers compensation, and he had to file a claim with the state to receive compensation, the lawsuit states. 

McCarthy allegedly told Haverly he would never be promoted because of his workers comp claim. 

Haverly "routinely had younger workers with less experience promoted over him," the lawsuit states. 

When Haverly was called into a meeting with Breukelander and McCarthy, Breuklander allegedly told him, "This is gonna be the worst day of your life."

McCarthy then told Haverly he was being immediately terminated and would never be hired back, according to the lawsuit. 

When Haverly asked why he was being let go when there were currently open positions with the company, McCarthy allegedly said he would not be considered for any other position at Winnebago. 

McColloch, a maintenance stock handler, complained to Garza about working conditions at Winnebago, according to the lawsuit.

He complained about "younger workers working fewer hours and receiving more vacation time than the older workers," the petition states. 

When McColloch was told his employment was being terminated and he asked why, neither McCarthy nor Breuklander allegedly would give him an answer. 

Stecker, another maintenance stock handler, developed a joint dysfunction as a result of work-related stress, according to the lawsuit. 

She had surgery for her condition in December 2017 and took eight weeks of medical leave. 

When she was fired, the only reason she was given was "corporate restructuring," according to the lawsuit. 

Stecker, who was the most senior member of her department, was replaced by a 31-year-old, the lawsuit states. 

The plaintiffs are requesting an unspecified amount in compensatory damages as well as "relief as necessary to prevent defendants from continuing their discriminatory practices and protect others similarly situated."

The former employees are seeking a jury trial. 

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