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Minority Business Enterprise Wins Against Age Discrimination Claim

August 2017

Last month, Tydings litigators successfully defended a minority business enterprise client against an age discrimination claim brought by a former employee in a jury trial.

Tydings’ attorneys, Jaime Luse and Courtney Amelung, obtained a judgment in the employer’s favor following a three-day jury trial in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland.  The primary issue was whether the employer’s decision to terminate a former employee was motivated by an intent to discriminate against him on the basis of age.  The former employee also claimed that the employer had failed to pay him overtime for work he performed at home in violation of Maryland wage laws.  The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer on the overtime claim, and the case proceeded to trial on the age discrimination claim. 

The former employee, who was 66 years old at the time of termination, alleged that the employer’s reason for his termination – unprofessional workplace conduct – was pretextual.  The employer, a government sub-contractor, based its decision to terminate him in large part on information that it received from the government prime contractor.  The employer was informed that the former employee yelled at a co-worker in front of a customer, engaged in behavior that made a female co-worker feel uncomfortable, was removed from a project at the request of the customer, and refused to share information with his co-workers.  His supervisor met with him to discuss these incidents and, because the former employee refused to acknowledge his inappropriate behavior and continued to demonstrate that he was not a team player after the meeting, he was fired shortly thereafter.

He based his pretext argument on the employer’s (1) failure to investigate the incidents reported by the prime contractor, and (2) failure to progressively discipline him. Tydings’ lawyers presented evidence on behalf of the employer that it was reasonable for it to rely upon information received from the prime contractor without investigation because the former employee worked on-site with the prime contractor; and it was the prime contractor that independently observed the plaintiff’s daily work.  Evidence was also presented that the employer did not have a written progressive discipline policy and sought to exclude evidence that the employer had progressively disciplined two other employees.  The circuit court granted this, holding that the other employees were not similarly situated to the plaintiff and that the evidence would be unfairly prejudicial.  After deliberating for less than twenty minutes, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the employer.

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