By Karen Morfitt

GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4)– Former employees of NREL, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, are launching an all-out fight after they say they were fired because of their age and disabilities. Ellen Fortier was 59 when she lost her job. She had just beat breast cancer.

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“It took life out of me, that I had because I was so proud of what I was doing,” she said.

Ed Weideman was almost 72 when he was told he was out of work. He had gone through two rounds of cancer treatment and worked at NREL for more than 20 years.

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“I lost my pension, my health care, my life insurance,” he said fighting back tears, “It’s hard to relive.”

Denise Zele, whose story is detailed in her complaint, was 56 and in the middle of treatment for skin cancer when the company let her go.

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Despite years of positive reviews, all three were fired on the same day.

“I just thought about the common denominators and why, you know, it just seemed like this doesn’t seem right, we were good employees we did our job there was no reason to let us go,” Fortier said.

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Together they filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming NREL discriminated against them based on their age and disabilities.

Attorney Elizabeth Imhoff Mabey took on their case.

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“Typically when somebody’s job is eliminated in a reorganization, it’s much more isolated but the fact that these were the three people selected and the only people selected and they had these things in common was striking,” she said.

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The EEOC has been investigating their claims for two years to determine if a lawsuit can move forward.

The three former employees just want answers.

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“We weren’t doing anything wrong we were doing our jobs,” Weideman said.

A spokesperson for the EEOC says depending on the complexity of a case it is not unusual for an investigation to take time.

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CBS4 reached out to NREL for a response and received the following statement from the company they are operated by: “Alliance denies the allegations and has been fully responsive to all requests from the EEOC. Consistent with past practice and for legal and privacy reasons, we cannot comment further.”

Karen Morfitt

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