Age Discrimination (Wrongful Termination & Hostile Work Environment) Claims Dismissed; Alleged Wrongdoing Was Insufficiently Connected to Plaintiff’s Age

In Grigoryou v. Pallet Servs., Inc., No. 1:13-CV-526-RJA-MJR, 2017 WL 722534 (W.D.N.Y. Jan. 25, 2017), report and recommendation adopted, No. 13-CV-526-A, 2017 WL 712607 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 23, 2017),[1]The below excerpts are from the 1/25/17 Amended Report & Recommendation. the court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgement and dismissed plaintiff’s age discrimination (unlawful termination and hostile work environment) claims asserted under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Wrongful Termination

As to plaintiff’s wrongful termination claim, the court explained that “plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that his termination occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.”

Such an inference

can be drawn from circumstances such as “the employer’s criticism of the plaintiff’s performance in … degrading terms; or its invidious comments about others in the protected group; or the more favorable treatment of employees not in the protected group; or the sequence of events leading to the … adverse employment action.

The court noted that plaintiff “offers no evidence of younger employees who engaged in similar behavior (namely insubordination or being away from their work station during non-break time) and were not disciplined or terminated, nor does he offer proof that any supervisors or other employees made comments, disparaging or otherwise, about his age.”

Even assuming plaintiff demonstrated that he could demonstrate that he was terminated under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination, defendant proffered a “legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for his termination” – namely, that “plaintiff left his work station during a non-break time, was told twice to return to work and refused.”

Plaintiff’s response – that he did not refuse to return to work and that the plant manager “pushed him, swore at him, and fired him without explanation” – was insufficient, in light of well-established law that “an employer may fire an employee for a good reason, a bad reason, a reason based on erroneous facts, or for no reason at all, as long as its action is not for a discriminatory reason.”

Thus, “even if plaintiff’s version of the events surrounding his termination was accepted as true, plaintiff, at most, alleges that he was yelled at unfairly, pushed and fired for no reason. Plaintiff offers no facts which would indicate that his age played any role in the termination, let alone that it was the but-for cause of his firing.”

Hostile Work Environment

Plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim was likewise deficient. From the decision:

In order to sustain a hostile work environment claim, a plaintiff must also establish that he was subject to hostility because of his membership in a protected class. Here, plaintiff alleges that he was regularly yelled at by younger employees. However, he states only that they would yell “let’s go” or other similar remarks about him needing to work faster or better. The record is completely devoid of evidence that plaintiff was subject to disparaging comments about his age, or that he was yelled at for any reason other than his co-workers or supervisors wanting him to work faster. In addition, plaintiff generally states that he had to work alone as a sorter while younger employees worked in teams. However, he does not offer any evidence to challenge defendant’s assertions, supported by an affidavit from the plant manager, that all sorters were required to work alone when the break-up crews were understaffed.

The court concluded that “[t]his lack of evidence of animus in the record also necessitates a dismissal of plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim.”

1 The below excerpts are from the 1/25/17 Amended Report & Recommendation.
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