Age discrimination or poor performance

by on January 21, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Poor performance isn’t protected by ADEA

Here’s a case where a 60-year-old sales force manager was cruising along in his position, doing a respectable job and earning good performance appraisals – until his boss, the General Manager, got canned.

A new GM swept in and turned the department around. That meant new measurement tools, new standards and new expectations.

‘Development required’

The manager, who’d been in his position for three years, had been rated “competent” in all areas of his performance evaluation by his previous boss.

His new boss ranked him as “competent” in 10 areas and as “development required” in two.

For both of the areas, the GM described, in writing, a corrective course of action.

In subsequent performance evaluations, the sales manager was given several areas in which improvements were needed.

‘The right people’

A month after receiving his final evaluation, the sales manager was fired. The reasons: poor business judgment, poor business knowledge and poor sales management skills.

The sales manager believed he’d been pushed out of the company because of his age. He sued his former employer for age discrimination, claiming that in addition to suddenly receiving unsatisfactory ratings, he’d heard the new GM say that the “right people” had two-to-six years of experience.

In court, the employer proved that even though the GM had raised the bar, he’d done it across the board. Older workers hadn’t been targets of age discrimination. Some measured up to the new standards, and some didn’t. The same held true for younger workers.

And if the “right people” remark was to be construed as age discrimination, “it would indict countless employers seeking to hire employees with two to six years experience as discriminating based on age,” said the court.

Cite: Mayer v. Nextel Corp. U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit, No. 02-1099,

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