Age Discrimination Dismissal Affirmed by the Fourth Circuit

In Spivey v. Mohawk ESV, Inc., 2023 WL 3918674 (4th Cir. June 9, 2023), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment dismissal of plaintiff’s claim of age discrimination asserted under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

After summarizing the “black letter” law, the court applied it to the facts, as follows:

We conclude that the district court did not err in finding that Spivey failed to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination under McDonnell Douglas. The evidence showed that Spivey was not meeting Mohawk’s expectation that he maintain a safe working environment at the company’s Hillsville, Virginia, manufacturing plant. Maintaining a safe workplace was one of Spivey’s job duties, as evidenced by his job description, the fact that the plant’s safety record was included in his annual performance reviews, and his own admissions. Furthermore, although Spivey’s supervisors counseled Spivey about his duty to ensure safety in his performance reviews, the number of safety incidents at the Hillsville plant increased dramatically under Spivey’s tenure. In the face of this evidence, Spivey failed to establish that he was meeting Mohawk’s legitimate expectations.

The district court also properly held that, in any event, Spivey failed to rebut the legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons Mohawk offered in support of its decision to terminate his employment. Specifically, Spivey quibbles with minor, immaterial inconsistencies among Mohawk representatives’ accounts of the termination and complains that the reasons for the termination of his employment were unsupported by documentation, but he offers nothing other than speculation to suggest that Mohawk’s expectations regarding safety were a pretext for discrimination.

Based on this, the court – having additionally determined that oral argument was unnecessary – held that summary judgment was warranted.

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