The Texas Supreme Court recently addressed an age discrimination issue. Mission Consolidated Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Garcia, No. 10-0802 (Tex. June 29, 2012), available at http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/historical/2012/jun/100802.pdf.
The Court addressed the question: Can a plaintiff establish a prima facie case of age discrimination when undisputed evidence shows she was replaced by someone older? No, answered the Court.
The plaintiff alleged that she was discriminated against because of her age. She was replaced by someone three years older. A plaintiff is entitled to a presumption of discrimination if she meets the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination. To establish a prima facie case of age discrimination, a plaintiff in a replacement case must show she was: (1) a member of the protected class; (2) qualified for her employment position; (3) terminated by the employer; and (4) replaced by someone younger. Because an inference of discrimination cannot be drawn from replacement by an insignificantly younger worker, the Court ruled that an inference of discrimination could not be drawn from replacement by an older worker. Instead, a plaintiff who alleges age discrimination and who was replaced by an older worker will not be able to establish a prima facie case; the plaintiff will be limited to the traditional method of proof requiring direct evidence of discriminatory animus.
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