Monday, November 15, 2010

Employment Case Law Update

--Bloom v JP Morgan Chase & Co., NDCal, No. C 09-03418 WHA: Employer's motion for summary judgment DENIED in claim against age discrimination in violation of the ADEA. The employer had a reduction in workforce where all employees let go were over 50 and all those retained were under 50 and one comment regarding an employee who was let go went so far as to say, "he was too old." The plaintiff suffered a $25,000 reduction in pay and was passed over for a position for a younger, less experienced employee and then was later terminated but not before preparations began to hire a younger employee to replace him. Interestingly enough, the new hire was labeled, "a smart, personable, and hard-working young banker” and the internal records concerning the plaintiff's termination changed and were "corrected."
The district court found that the plaintiff made out a prima facie case of age discrimination, that the defendant offered a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason ("LNDR") for the termination and that the LNDR was pretext:

Bloom makes a sufficient showing of pretext. A jury could reasonably believe that Melio contacted Reilly in the summer of 2008 with an intention of replacing Bloom, and that Maloney contacted Reilly prior to Bloom’s termination in order to be ready to start the interview process for Reilly as soon as Bloom was gone. A jury could disbelieve defendants’ characterization of Bloom’s “promotion” to deputy head of the health-care group and find it to really be an effort to marginalize his position within the group. These issues involve credibility determinations that are for the jury to make. Furthermore, a jury could find it persuasive that the health-care group maintained no bankers over 50 (besides Bloom) after the restructuring in 2008, and that Bloom was not given a chance to defend himself with regard to the recordings because Melio was already prepared to push him out to make way for Reilly.
There is evidence that Melio was given final authority to fire Bloom, and that he had made up his mind to do so even before the meeting on September 8 (see Melio Dep. 185:8–12). Plaintiff presents facts to support his version of what happened. He has carried his burden to show that defendants’ explanation could be found by a jury to be pretext. This is sufficient to survive summary judgment. See Pottenger, 329 F.3d at 746 (“At the summary judgment stage, [plaintiff’s] burden is not high.”).
Therefore, it goes to a jury to decide!

--Garcia v Whirlpool Corp., NDOhio, Case No. 3:08-CV-02944: Motion for summary judgment granted for employer after court holds plaintiff was able to demonstrate that shoulder injuries impairing her ability to hold and lift items rendered her with a qualified disability under the ADA, however, plaintiff failed to demonstrate that she was qualified for the reassignment positions she sought.

--Mutua v Texas Roadhouse Mgmt Corp., DSD, CIV. 09-4080-KES: An African-American server for a national restaurant chain, who alleged that management at the restaurant where she worked repeatedly granted a customer's request not to be served by an African-American and fired her two months after she filed an EEOC charge, could proceed with her claims that she was subjected to a racially hostile work environment and was unlawfully retaliated against. Court granted defendant's motion for summary in part regarding the disparate treatment and breach of contract claims and denied in part regarding plaintiff's hostile work environment and retaliation claims.

--Knox v SunTrust Banks, Inc, EDTenn, Case No. 1:09-cv-115: Employer's motion for summary judgment against plaintiff's Title VII claims DENIED. Plaintiff is a married assistant bank manager, and an active member of the Baptist church. He claimed that during the one year that he worked under the branch manager’s supervision, who is gay, he was subjected to a pattern of continuous sexual and religious harassment that started off relatively mildly, but escalated in frequency and intensity, especially in the last few months leading up to his discharge. Plaintiff further alleged that his supervisor became increasingly angry and belligerent when his sexual advances were rebuffed, which led to more religious harassment. The court found that there were sufficient factual issues to warrant a jury trial on the hostile work environment claims. A reasonable jury could find that the employee’s workplace was permeated with discriminatory harassment, insult, and ridicule that were sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of his employment and create a hostile or abusive work environment.

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