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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
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Court Finds Owner’s Alleged Ageist Remarks About Discharged Employee Warrant A Jury Trial In Age Discrimination Case

elderly couple holding age signs

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employers from making employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s age.  As explained by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in Adams v. City of Montgomery, 2012 WL 1414979 (M.D. Ala. April 24, 2012), “remarks that show bias are particularly probative of discrimination when they are made by the person charged with making the employment decision.”  Having long represented employees who have been discriminated against because of age, our Central Florida age discrimination attorneys have learned that, although such “smoking gun” evidence is not required to prove age discrimination, ageist remarks by an employee involved in the challenged employment decision are the most compelling evidence of age discrimination. 

Ageist remarks by an employee involved in the challenged employment decision enable a jury to infer a discriminatory motive for the employment decision and disbelieve the employer’s proffered reason for the employment decision.  A recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in McDowell v. Massey Auto, 2017 WL 2624226 (M.D. Ala. May 15, 2017) illustrates that evidence of ageist remarks by an employee involved in the challenged employment decision is often, standing alone, sufficient to warrant a jury trial in an age discrimination case.

Owner Allegedly Said Employee Was Too Old

In that case, James McDowell (McDowell) claimed that Massey Auto unlawfully discriminated against him on the basis of age in violation of the ADEA.  Massey Auto, which is an automotive dealership, employed McDowell as Manager of the Finance and Insurance Department.  When he was hired by the dealership’s General Manager in December 2011, McDowell was sixty-three years old and had been in the business of selling cars since 1981.   During his employment with Massey Auto, McDowell increased the sales volume of the dealership from $18,500 per month to $60,000 per month.

On May 10, 2012, McDowell was summoned to the office of James Massey (Massey) to meet with Massey and an employee of Ally Finance.  Massey was a partial owner of Massey Auto.  Ally Finance provided Massey Auto with inventory financing.  The employee of Ally Finance claimed that during the meeting a confrontation took place and culminated with McDowell calling him a “liar.”  McDowell denied calling the Ally Finance employee a “liar.”  The next day, the dealership’s General Manager notified McDowell of his termination.   The General Manager testified that Massey directed him to fire McDowell because McDowell “had gotten into it” with the employee from Ally Finance “about something.”  The General Manager further testified that Massey told him that McDowell “was too old and made too much money, anyway, and that he could be replaced by a younger woman who was much better to look at.”  McDowell trained the younger woman, age thirty-eight, who replaced him.  She was fired about six months after replacing McDowell.   

Massey Auto filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of McDowell’s age discrimination claim.  In doing so, Massey Auto argued that McDowell’s age discrimination claim failed as a matter of law and McDowell was prohibited from presenting his age discrimination claim to a jury for resolution.  The trial court denied Massey Auto’s motion for dismissal.

Court Finds Evidence Of Age-Related Motive For Discharge

In denying Massey Auto’s motion for dismissal, the trial court explained that McDowell’s evidence showed that Massey told the General Manager to fire McDowell because he was “too old and making too much money anyway” and because he could be replaced by a younger woman who was better to look at.  From this evidence, the trial court determined, “a reasonable jury could conclude that the determining factor for Massey in electing to terminate [McDowell] was [his] age.”  The trial court also pointed out that McDowell denied calling the Ally Finance employee a “liar.”  Thus, the trial court reasoned, if McDowell’s “version of events are to be believed, [Massey Auto’s] proffered reason for terminating [McDowell] could not be the real reason for [his] termination, and instead, would be merely pretextual.”  Because McDowell had produced evidence of “an age-related motive” for his termination, the trial court concluded that whether McDowell was fired because of his age in violation of the ADEA must be decided by a jury.

Free Consultation With Ocala Age Discrimination Lawyers   

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we have more than fifteen years of experience representing employees who have been fired on the basis of age.  If you have been the victim of age discrimination or have been questions about ageist remarks made in the workplace, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Central Florida age discrimination attorneys.  Our employee rights law firm takes age discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis.  This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover. 

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