Shelly v. Geren

When evaluating employment discrimination claims under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), the Courts will apply the McDonnell Douglas analysis, where plaintiff must demonstrate a prima facie case of age discrimination.

In this case, the plaintiff employee sued the defendant employer, a federal agency for allegedly violating the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) by failing to interview him and rejecting his applications for two promotions. The facts of this case essentially involve a government agency seeking to fill a supervisory position in a two-step hiring process that included a four-month temporary position and then a formal process for the permanent position. Plaintiff was a fifty-four year old man whom has been serving as an assistant to the position being applied for that held a master’s degree in business administration and had served twenty-six of twenty-nine years of experience in the field with the federal agency but was not selected for such position. In seeking to dismiss the case, the defendant federal government agency filed a motion for summary judgment to which the trial court granted in favor of defendant reasoning that the McDonnell Douglas analysis was not applicable to ADEA cases, but rather plaintiff had the burden to show discrimination where “his age was the but for cause of his non-selection for the position.” As such, the district court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the basis that plaintiff had insufficient evidence to meet his burden of proof.

The Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the McDonnell Douglas still applies to ADEA claims at the summary judgement stage, and that in terms of this particular case, plaintiff had in fact initiated a timely administrative complaint, produced sufficient evidence to make out a prima facie case of of age discrimination under the ADEA and had evidence of pretext sufficient to create a material dispute of fact as to whether age-related bias was the “but for” cause of the agency’s failure to interview and promote him.

The significance of this case, is that Court determined that the trial court’s requirement that plaintiff demonstrate as part of his prima facie case that age-related bias was the “but for” cause of the agency’s failure to interview and promote him was incorrect, but rather, that the McDonnell Douglas was still applicable in such cases, in particular where the ADEA requires that the plaintiff show sufficient and reasonable evidence of age discrimination.

Employment based claims involving a large employer requires a law firm that is experienced, competent, and knowledgeable concerning the complexities of employment injury claims and the recovery of attorney fees. If you have any employment-related injury claims and are considering contact the Orange County Employment Lawyers at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside, and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.