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Success & Failure in Two Age-Discrimination Suits

Changing reasons for discharge are evidence of pretext. An employee complained about age discrimination. He was then fired. He sued. The company’s reasons for the discharge kept changing, starting with one reason given to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and more added as the case progressed. When a “poor performance” reason was shown to have no foundation, the company then raised “not getting along with a supervisor,” then it claimed he “asked” for a severance (which was never given, nor proven to have been requested). The court found all of these changing reasons could be seen as pretexts to cover up discrimination. Eades v. Brookdale Sr. Living, Inc. (6th Cir., 2010).

Aggressive employee has no age case. A 46-year-old employee had a series of altercations with coworkers. He was fired after getting into a fight with a 30-year-old employee. That younger employee was not fired. The 46-year-old sued, claiming unequal treatment. The court dismissed. The evidence showed that the younger worker had only this one incident, not several prior. The younger employee also wrote a sincere letter of apology. The two workers were not similarly situated, and there was no showing of age as the basis of the discharge. Runyon v. Applied Extrusion Tech., Inc. (7th Cir., 2010).

Bob Gregg, partner in Boardman Law Firm, shares his roundup of diversity-related legal issues. He can be reached at rgregg@boardmanlawfirm.com.

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