The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed summary judgment for an employer in a discrimination case. Jackson v. Cal-W. Packaging Corp., No. 09-20411 (5th Cir. March 2, 2010), available at http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/09/09-20411-CV0.wpd.pdf.
The plaintiff sued his former employer for age discrimination after allegedly being fired for non-compliance with the company’s sexual harassment policy. The employer moved for summary judgment. The plaintiff asserted that a factual issue existed as to whether the employer’s stated reason for the discharge was pretextual because, among other things, a supervisor referred to the plaintiff as an “old, gray-haired fart.” The lower court granted summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.
The Court explained that comments are only evidence of discrimination if the comments are: (1) related to the plaintiff’s protected class; (2) proximate in time to the adverse employment decision (here, the termination); (3) made by a person with authority over the adverse employment decision; and (4) related to the adverse employment decision. Comments that do not meet this standard are considered “stray remarks” and are insufficient to defeat summary judgment. Here, the comment was made about a year before the termination and appeared unrelated to the termination. Thus, alone, this comment was insufficient to establish a triable issue of fact as to pretext. The Court affirmed the summary judgment.
To speak to a Dallas discrimination and retaliation lawyer, please contact the Texas employment law lawyers at Clouse Dunn Khoshbin LLP at [email protected].
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