The Eighth Circuit reverses summary judgment in this ADEA and Minnesota Human Rights Act case, holding that a jury could find that the city's failure to promote the city's lieutenant to Chief of Police was motivated by age. Importantly, it notes that an employer that assumes that people who are retirement-eligible are "uncommitted" to a promotion are skating on thin-ice.
Over the long holiday weekend, the Fifth Circuit issued the first EEO case of the year, one that points up an important federal pleading lesson in the era of Iqbal and Twombly. To wit, if you anticipate seeking a default judgment, make sure that your discrimination complaint is as complete as possible. The Fifth Circuit holds (2-1), in a matter of first impression, that deficiencies in a complaint cannot be cured by live testimony in a default judgment hearing. The court concludes, in the present case, that while the plaintiff presented a plausible case of age discrimination at the hearing, the complaint itself was insufficient to support the judgment.
The Eighth Circuit, en banc (9-3), today affirms summary judgment in an ADEA case. The surprise is not so much in the outcome as the vote split, which is not along ordinary lines. In second case, a panel reverses (in part) summary judgment on another ADEA claim, finding that pointed inquiries into an employee's Medicare eligibility and health-plan costs were probative evidence of age bias.
Here's a nice, simple reminder for HR professionals and laid-off employees: that when an employer can not line-up behind a single reason (or even a single decision maker) for a termination decision, and instead keeps changing its mind, the reason lurking beneath may well be discrimination. The Sixth Circuit sends an age-discrimination claim back for trial where the employer allegedly switched stories midstream, from contending that the employee's job was eliminated to arguing that the termination was based on a negative performance evaluation.
Can a job transfer originally requested by an employee constitute an "adverse employment action" (for purposes of Title VII, the ADEA and § 1983)? The Sixth Circuit panel in this case split over the issue, 2-1. The panel majority holds, in reversing summary judgment on this issue, that such a transfer may be "adverse" to the employee when the terms and conditions of the transfer are inferior to what the employee originally sought.
The Seventh Circuit continues on its march toward sensible decision-making in employment discrimination cases, reversing dismissal of an ADEA case and reaffirming that an employee may survive summary judgment by any combination of evidence "that a rational jury could conclude" proves "that the employer took the adverse action against the plaintiff because he is a member of a protected class." The evidence included a deposition admission by the CEO that the company hired a new replacement salesman in his 20s because "he was a young individual" and, though inexperienced, "our thought process on him was he was a young guy, give him a shot [to] drive around the state showing fire trucks and learn the business."
summary judgment motions and appeals in employment discrimination cases often ask, at their core, whether a jury should be empanelled to weigh conflicting evidence (and inferences) and decide whether a supervisor involved in a termination decision harbored a biased motive. Here, where a fired 76-year-old security guard presented evidence that his supervisor told him that he "needed to hang up his Superman cape" and was "too old to be working," at least two of the three judges thought that a jury should decide that question.
The Sixth Circuit demolishes a popular defense tactic by employers in discrimination cases, holding that district courts should not readily entertain motions in limine to exclude evidence that are often filed after summary judgment motions fail. The panel holds that such motions often intrude on the jury's role as fact-finder, while denying employees the procedural protections of summary judgment. The court reverses the exclusion of evidence of comparative employees and remands an age and national-origin discrimination case for trial.
In a review of a $17 million jury verdict in an age discrimination case (significantly reduced by the district court judge), the Fifth Circuit issues an important decision about who gets to decide the award for future pension benefits - the bench or jury - and whether the monetary equivalent of such benefits is subject to doubling as "liquidated damages" under the ADEA. It also deviates from recent case law of other circuits in holding that a $100,000 emotional distress damage award cannot be sustained without medical testimony.
In this ADEA case, the Eleventh Circuit affirms the simple truth under employment discrimination law that when the decision-maker later (reportedly) disavows the very reasons that the employer gives for firing an employee, this circumstance presents a witness credibility issue that cannot be decided on paper alone, and only a jury can properly resolve.