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Opinion: Federal Court of Appeals dismisses age discrimination lawsuit as insufficient

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The warden sued his employer after the employer fired him for allegedly placing a hidden camera in the office. The head alleged that he was unlawfully dismissed because of his gender, in violation of Section VII and age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The Fifth District Federal Court of Appeals (which has jurisdiction over Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana) has been instructed to determine whether the termination is an ADEA violation.

Background

As part of his responsibilities, the manager managed the entire department of his employer. During the work, the manager complained to the manager about the behavior of another employee. The manager passed this information to higher authorities, and the employer launched an investigation into allegations involving “very inappropriate comments” in the workplace. During the investigation, the employer found that the manager was present and even participated in cases where obscene sexual and racial expressions were used in the workplace. The employer demoted the manager for his alleged involvement in promoting an inappropriate work environment.

A few months later, the head allegedly put a hidden camera in the office. After this further breach of company policy the employer determined that the manager should be fired.

Following his dismissal, the head filed a lawsuit for unlawful discrimination on the grounds of his sex in violation of Section VII and age in violation of ADEA. The Federal District Court ruled in favor of the employer on all claims. The officer appealed the ruling to the Federal Court of Appeals of the Fifth District, but dropped his claim of sex discrimination.

Decision of the Court of Appeal

Federal law provides, according to the ADEA, that it is “illegal for an employer. . . not to hire or fire any person or to refuse or otherwise discriminate against any person in respect of his or her compensation, conditions, conditions or privileges of employment because of the age of such person ”. The Fifth District noted that to prove such a case, the plaintiff must demonstrate that: “(1) he was dismissed; (2) he was qualified for the position; (3) he was in a guarded classroom at the time of his dismissal; and (4) he was either i) replaced by someone outside the protected class, ii) replaced by someone younger, or iii) otherwise dismissed because of his age ”. Once the plaintiff shows this, the employer must show that he has a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for dismissal.

In making a decision against the employer, the Fifth District considered that the grounds of the head for his claim were insufficient. Claiming that he was discriminated against on the basis of his age, the head relied on the testimony of his supervisor, who stated that the head was “not properly trained or taught” or “trained to be a leader” and that the head “had difficulty participating and learning more”. . The head argued that these comments would allow the jury to determine that he was fired because he was “old and slow”.

Rejecting this claim, the Fifth District noted that in order to prove age discrimination, the comments of the decision-maker must “sufficiently indicate age bias”. As an example, the Fifth District stated that a reference to a plaintiff as an “old goat” or a description of his appearance as “old man’s clothing” may indicate age bias.

Take it away

As the Fifth District notes, just because an employee claims he was discriminated against does not mean that they were in fact. Specific evidence is needed to promote allegations of discrimination. An employer’s decision to fire an employee for misconduct or insufficient work will not sufficiently support the allegation of discrimination if there is no bias. In this regard, it is important for employers not only to ensure that appropriate and sufficient documentation is available to support termination decisions, but also to educate managers and employees about discrimination as a means of preventing it from spreading in the workplace.

R. Eddie Wayland is a partner at King & Ballow Law Firm. You can contact Mr. Wayland at (615) 726-5430 or at rew@kingballow.com. The above materials, discussions and comments have been abbreviated from laws, court decisions and administrative rulings and should not be construed as legal advice on specific situations or topics.

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