Sheppard v. David Evans & Assocs.
Plaintiff a former employee filed a lawsuit against defendant employer for discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The facts involve plaintiff, an administrative assistance whom during a period of time in which she performed satisfactorily, requested family medical leave after suffering from a serious illness, after which time she was terminated by her employer. The plaintiff filed a complaint alleging causes of action for: (1) employment discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"); and (2) "wrongful discharge" under Oregon law. The trial court dismissed plaintiff’s complaint on the basis that it failed to satisfy the pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2).
The Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals reversed, holding in pertinent part that plaintiff had satisfied the pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2). Here, the Court found that plaintiff’s complaint alleged a "plausible" prima facie case of age discrimination, in particular that her complaint alleged that: (1) she was at least forty years old; (2) "her performance was satisfactory or better" and that "she received consistently good performance reviews"; (3) she was discharged; and (4) her five younger comparators kept their jobs. The Court further reasoned that an employee may bring a claim for wrongful discharge "when the discharge is for exercising a job-related right that reflects an important public policy and an employee may bring a claim for wrongful discharge "when the discharge is for exercising a job-related right that reflects an important public policy." Additionally, to prevail on a claim of wrongful discharge, a plaintiff "must establish a `causal connection' between a protected activity and the discharge." Overall, the Court determined that plaintiff had in fact met such elements based on the pleadings that demonstrate a "causal connection" between the plaintiff's request for medical leave and her termination. Significantly, the Court found that plaintiff’s amended complaint alleges that she was terminated "immediately" after she scheduled her surgery and this in conjunction with plaintiff's allegation that she "received consistently good performance reviews" gives rise to an inference that plaintiff was performing her job well but was nonetheless terminated for requesting medical leave. The significance of this case is that the Court thoroughly evaluated the timeline of events and in applying common sense reasoning, determined that the employer’s decision to terminate, occurring only after request for medical leave, evidenced prohibited age discrimination.
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