Win age discrimination lawsuits with documentation and equal policy enforcement.

by on December 15, 2008 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Just because terminated employee was 51 doesn’t make it age discrimination

An employer is free to fire a worker over the age of 40 for almost any reason, as long as it’s not because of the worker’s age.

Here’s a case where a 51-year-old employee got canned for safety policy violations. And even though no one had ever been fired for such violations before, the employer prevailed in the age discrimination lawsuit.

Broke rules, injured himself

In the process of fixing a machine – one he wasn’t authorized to fix, on a roof he wasn’t supposed to be on without a partner, in a confined space where he shouldn’t have been at all – shipping supervisor Thomas Morrison injured his hand. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital, treated and released.

When executives learned Morrison had broken three safety rules, they fired him. Morrison turned around and filed an Age Discrimination Employment Act lawsuit. His claim: They’d been looking for a reason to can him because he was old and got a bigger salary than a younger worker could command.

To bolster his argument, Morrison pointed to others – younger employees – who’d broken the same rules without getting fired.

But the employer showed that no one had ever violated three safety rules at once. What’s more, he had shown no evidence of age-related comments, jokes or bias in the workplace. The court wouldn’t let Morrison play the “age card.” He lost the age discrimination lawsuit because the employer had sound and consistently enforced policies.

Cite: Morrison v. Weyerhaeuser Co., U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, No. H-03-1033, 4/13/04.

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