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A federal appeals court has reinstated an age discrimination claim filed by a fired technology worker, stating the lower court had failed to consider relevant evidence in the case.
Michael O’Connor, an engineer, was in his 50s when he was terminated from his position at San Diego-based Cymer LLC in 2014 and replaced by a worker in his 30s, according to the complaint in Michael O’Connor vs. Cymer LLC.
The complaint said Mr. O’Connor’s manager repeatedly stated he could not believe Mr. O’Connor had been a field service engineer for so many years and allegedly harassed him in various ways.
Mr. O’Connor filed suit in U.S. District Court in Boise, charging violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Idaho Human Rights Act.
The court granted Cymer summary judgment dismissing the case, which was overturned by a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in Monday’s ruling.
The critical issue in the case “is whether O’Connor presented evidence that he was discharged under circumstances giving rise to an inference of age discrimination,” said the ruling.
“O’Connor offered statements by his supervisor related to his age, salary and tenure and evidence that the supervisor called younger employees ‘supermen.’
“Considering the low burden sufficient to establish a prima facie case, a reasonable factfinder could determine” evidence shows that Mr. O’Connor was discharged under circumstances that gave rise to an “inference of age discrimination,” said the ruling, in quoting an earlier opinion and vacating the lower court’s ruling. The case was remanded for further proceedings.
Mr. O’Connor’s attorney, Eric S. Rossman of the Rossman Law Group in Boise, said, “We’re happy with the outcome of the appeal. We think the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals did the right thing in concluding that the trial judge reached factual conclusions that are reserved for a jury and we look forward to having our day in court in front of a jury of our client’s peers.”
Clymer’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
In January, a divided U.S. appeals court dealt a setback to older job applicants, saying they cannot invoke a federal law against age bias in employment to challenge hiring policies they believe have a discriminatory impact.
Comments such as “Seasons 52 girls are younger and fresh” has led to the $2.85 million settlement of an age discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Orlando-based restaurant chain, a unit of Darden Concepts Inc., the agency said Thursday.