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A federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling and reinstated an age discrimination lawsuit filed by a former college math instructor, stating she met all the criteria for pursuing her lawsuit under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
Ching-Chin Chen charged Santa Monica Community College District with age discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation after she was terminated in December 2016 from her job as a part-time instructor in Santa Monica College’s mathematics department, according to court papers in Ching Chin Chen v. Santa Monica College District.
Ms. Chen was terminated after receiving a negative performance evaluation, according to the September 2019 ruling by the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles dismissing the lawsuit, which stated she “had not established that her age was the cause of her termination from employment.”
A three-judge appeals court panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco unanimously affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of Ms. Chen’s retaliation charge, but reinstated her age discrimination charge under the ADEA.
“The district court properly dismissed Chen’s retaliation claim because Chen failed to allege facts sufficient to state a prima facie case of retaliation,” the court said, in a brief opinion.
“However, Chen alleged she was at least forty years old, was performing her job satisfactorily, was discharged, and was replaced by substantially younger employees with less experience.
“These allegations are sufficient to state a plausible discrimination claim” under the ADEA, the ruling said, in reversing the lower court’s decision and remanding the case for further proceedings.
The college’s attorney could not be reached for comment.
In June, the Pasadena, California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory agreed to pay $10 million to settle an age discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency said Wednesday.
A class action lawsuit that Google has settled for $11 million could encourage more litigation, particularly against other high-tech companies, which are viewed as favoring younger workers, say experts.