California Appeals Court Rejects Age Discrimination Appeal

The outcome of a case can turn on the evidence each party presents. As a result, parties to a lawsuit will seek to include their evidence and may object to the other party’s evidence. A recent opinion from the Second District Court of Appeals Division 4 in California demonstrates the importance of these evidence disputes to the strength of each party’s case. The case involved an appeal from a lower court decision granting an employer’s motion for summary judgment. The employee claims his former employer, Fox Digital Enterprises, Inc., eliminated his shifts as a finishing editor due to his age. At the time of his termination, the employee was 63 years old, the third-oldest finishing editor. The employee filed a lawsuit alleging age discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and wrongful termination in violation of public policy. Both parties objected to the opposing side’s evidence.

Facts of the Case

At Fox, the plaintiff had edited promotional videos since 1984. In 2018, his supervisor eliminated his and the oldest editor’s shifts. Later, Fox gave additional shifts to the youngest editor. A few months prior, Fox had informed employees of anticipated staffing cuts due to budgetary constraints. However, the plaintiff argued he was terminated because of his age. Fox countered by citing issues with his speed and tardiness. Several supervisors and editors testified that the plaintiff was one of the slowest editors in his department. The plaintiff countered that he produced meticulous, quality work, and Fox’s reported concerns were a pretext for age discrimination.

To support their claims, each party submitted several forms of evidence. The plaintiff claimed he heard a supervisor say that another editor was the slowest. He provided declarations from former Fox employees who attested to his high-quality work and punctuality. He also cited evidence of finishing editors’ average hourly wages to argue his above-average pay reflected strong performance. Fox objected to this evidence and provided its own pay data.

The lower court sustained Fox’s objections and granted its motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff appealed.

The Decision

The appeals court affirmed the exclusion of the plaintiff’s evidence. First, it agreed with the lower court that the supervisor’s statement about another editor was inadmissible hearsay. The plaintiff failed to show the supervisor had the authority to speak for Fox, and he failed to allow the supervisor to refute this alleged statement at his deposition. Additionally, the court affirmed the exclusion of the plaintiff’s declarations because they were irrelevant. The declarations came from employees without a direct supervisory role over the plaintiff. Additionally, the declarations made general claims about the plaintiff’s work quality and punctuality without specifically countering his supervisors’ performance concerns. Finally, the court sustained Fox’s objection to the plaintiff’s pay data because the plaintiff could not prove a causal link between pay and performance.

On the merits, the court concluded that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that Fox’s alleged legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for terminating him were a pretext for age discrimination. The court cited his supervisors’ concerns about speed and tardiness, evidence that supervisors expressed these concerns to the plaintiff, and the plaintiff’s admission that Fox had emphasized speed over quality. The plaintiff also failed to show that Fox’s termination of two older employees, along with the assignment of extra shifts to a younger employee, had a causal link to age discrimination. As a result, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant Fox’s motion for summary judgment.

Do You Need a California Employment Law Attorney?

If you have suffered age discrimination from an employer, you may be entitled to relief. Contact an experienced California employment lawyer to discuss your case. Our attorneys at The Nourmand Law Firm will help present the evidence you need to make the strongest possible claim. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, contact us at 310-553-3600 today.

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