“We do not beat the Wolf for being gray, but for eating the sheep.” Sixth Circuit Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr., quoting Count Lev N. Tolstoy’s The Wolf and the Hunters.
Martin was illustrating why a federal district court correctly dismissed an age-discrimination plaintiff’s case.
The plaintiff claimed management made several inquiries of older workers about their retirement plans. Plaintiff alleged that at one point, a human resources manager said, “There are some elderly supervisors that we have to do something with within the next year.”
Martin ruled that even if plaintiff had established a prima facie case by either direct or circumstantial evidence, there was plenty of evidence to back up defendant’s reasons for letting plaintiff go — poor work performance reviews, written warnings about workplace behavior and failure to achieve goals in his personal performance plan.
The case is Lefevers v. GAF Fiberglass Corp.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit Jan. 20, claiming that Auburn Hills-based Hutchinson Sealing Systems Inc. selected project engineers for lay-off based on age.
Hutchinson manufactures automotive, aerospace, defense and marine industry parts.
According to the EEOC’s suit (Case No. 2:12-cv-10264, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan), the company “manipulated its criteria for selecting project engineers for layoff based on age.
“In the first round of layoffs, William Galas was the only engineer selected for layoff. At the age of 62 at the time, he was the oldest project engineer. A mere month later, Hutchinson laid off two more project engineers. This time, Hutchinson added one new layoff criterion that led to the second- and third-oldest project engineers at the time, ages 51 and 48 respectively, to be selected for layoff.”
The company couldn’t explain the new criteria. The EEOC claims that if the company had used the same criteria for the later layoffs as it did for the first one, the second and third engineers would not have lost their jobs. Instead, younger engineers would have been let go.
The EEOC released a statement saying that it had tried to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
“The agency seeks to recover monetary compensation for Galas and the two other project engineers in the form of back pay other relief, including reinstatement, front pay and anti-discrimination training for the company,” according to the EEOC.