Litigation » Fourth Circuit Overturns Age Discrimination Dismissal

Fourth Circuit Overturns Age Discrimination Dismissal

June 19, 2024

Fourth Circuit Overturns Age Discrimination Dismissal

It is easy enough to get into court to plead allegations of age discrimination, but proving by a preponderance of the evidence that age was the actual cause of an adverse employment action is a far bigger hurdle, as Eric B. Meyer writes in a post on the Pierson Ferdinand site.

A recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling revived a case filed by a former human resources executive in her mid-60s. She had good credentials, lots of experience, and her claim that she performed well and received praise from senior management was backed up by the discretionary bonuses she earned.

According to her, the defendant’s president fired her a week after praising her, and explained that she was not a “cultural fit.” She was replaced by someone with less experience in her mid-30s.

The defendant moved to dismiss on grounds that the plaintiff failed to state a claim that has a valid basis for relief under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The district court ruled for the defendant, holding that the plaintiff failed to show a causal connection between her age and her termination.

But her appeal to the Fourth Circuit succeeded. The Court ruled that taken together and accepted as true, her pleadings concerning her qualifications, her age, the questionable justification for her abrupt termination, plus allegations that the company fired other employees “near or over 60 years of age” after her termination, constituted a plausible enough basis to comport with the pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

The plaintiff may get her day in court, writes Meyer, but she still has to prove her allegations.

Read past discrimination coverage in Today’s General Counsel here and here.

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