In the case of Hardy v. The Andersons, Ins., the Appellate Court held that an employer did not commit age discrimination against an at-will employee by dispersing his job duties to other employees and hiring a substantially younger employee for a different role upon his termination.
Here, an employee alleged that he was wrongfully terminated from his job because of his age, citing evidence such as being replaced by a younger and less qualified individual, and younger coworkers being subjected to preferential treatment in the workplace. The employer argued that the employee was terminated for not meeting the legitimate expectations for the job because the employee was working remotely from outside his sales territory when there was an expectation that he would work in-person within his sales territory. The Court ultimately agreed with the employer.
In support of its decision, the Court explained that in order to prove wrongful termination, the employee must show that he was a member of a protected class, he faced sufficient adverse employment action, he was qualified for the position, and that he was replaced by someone substantially younger than he was. The Court found that it was undisputed that the employee was a member of a protected class because of his age and that he was terminated. The Court then found that the employee did demonstrate that he was qualified and could meet the legitimate expectations of his job because there was no clear expectation that work had to be performed only within the employee’s sales territory, as the employer supplied the employee with the technology to be able to work remotely. However, the Court further found that the employee was not replaced by someone younger because the substantially younger woman was hired for a different position and the terminated employee’s duties were transitioned to other employees. “‘[A] person is not replaced when another employee is assigned to perform the [claimant’s] duties in addition to other duties, or when the work is redistributed among other existing employees already performing related work.” Hardy v. The Andersons, Ins., ¶ 39, citing Barnes v. GenCorp, Inc., 896 F.2d 1457, 1465 (6th Cir. 1990). Lastly, the Court found that the employee could not show that other similarly situated employees received preferential treatment because the circumstances were not the same or comparable. Thus, the Court held that the employee could not support the basis of his wrongful agism termination claim as he could not prove the requisite elements.
To read this case, click here.
Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.
Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.