Ohio Appeals Court Finds No Age DiscriminationPlaintiff, a 51 year old supervisor, was terminated and replaced by a 43 year old person. The plaintiff had received job reviews praising his performance in customer service. However, his reviews also revealed that he did not treat subordinate employees with respect and reacted poorly during times of stress. After being terminated, plaintiff filed an action claiming wrongful termination due to age discrimination. The trial court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the plaintiff's claim. The court of appeals agreed with the trial court.
The Tenth District Court of Appeals (Franklin County) stated that the plaintiff presented an initial case when he established that he was (1) member of a statutorily protected class, (2) was discharged, (3) was qualified for the position, and (4) was replaced by someone of a substantially younger age. Once that was established, the employer had to state a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the discharge. Once the employer did this, then the plaintiff must then prove that the employer's reasons were not its true reasons, but merely a pretext for discrimination.
The court threw out the plaintiff's case because he could not show that the employer's reasons were a pretext. The court found that the plaintiff was discharged for long-standing, well-documented performance issues. The court also pointed out that pretext is not shown merely by proving the incorrectness of the reasons for discharge, but only whether the employer honestly based its decision on that reason. The plaintiff was required to produce a material dispute contesting the employer's honest belief in the proffered reason for discharge. This the plaintiff could not do and his case was dismissed without going to a jury.