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Appeals court upholds insurer’s win in age discrimination suit

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The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Thursday upheld the dismissal of a man’s age discrimination suit over his termination as a niche market insurer’s head of risk engineering.

The three-judge appellate panel in Nadir K. Durrani v. GuideOne National Insurance Co. et al. said Mr. Durrani failed to establish that age-related comments made by an executive had anything to do with the decision to terminate his employment.

The panel said that while Mark Groenheide, senior vice president of GuideOne’s specialty division, made comments in September 2020 that the company was looking to hire younger employees because they were more productive, the decision to terminate Mr. Durrani was based on concerns about possible plagiarism in articles he produced for the insurer.

Mr. Durrani began working for West Des Moines, Iowa-based GuideOne in December 2019 as a head of risk engineering. At the time of his hiring, Mr. Durrani, who is from Pakistan and Muslim, was 62 years old, court records show.

In July 2020, Randell Thompson was hired as a risk engineer for GuideOne and reported to Mr. Durrani. The two wrote articles for GuideOne’s brokers, insurers and clients.

Concerns about possible plagiarism in a November 2020 article written by Mr. Durrani and Mr. Thompson prompted an investigation into other articles written and submitted by Mr. Durrani. The investigation found plagiarism in an earlier article written by Mr. Durrani, court records show.

Mr. Durrani denied the plagiarism allegations, saying a number of other individuals worked on the articles as well. Both he and Mr. Thompson were terminated in November 2020, but Mr. Thompson was later reinstated.

Mr. Durrani sued GuideOne in Texas state court in August 2021, alleging discrimination based on his age, race, religion and national origin. The suit was removed to federal court in Houston, and GuideOne moved for summary judgment.

The trial judge granted the motion, ruling that Mr. Durrani failed to establish that the decision to terminate his employment was based on his age rather than the articles.

Representatives for the parties did not respond to requests for comment.