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Age discrimination claim is dismissed

David Hunt sued MNP Corporation for age discrimination.  He was a tool & die man and an occasional foreman for the company, hired back in 1966.  In 2008, the company closed the half of its plant where Hunt worked and transferred him to another division.  In 2009, Hunt was laid off with several others, but he was re-hired a few months later.  The company claimed this re-hire was only temporary, although Hunt testified he was never told that. 

When a tooling manager was hired from outside, Hunt was told that he wasn't put in the position because his age made him a "short-timer."  The day after questioning the hire, Hunt was laid off.  The Company's management claimed he was laid off again because the tool room was "caught up."

Hunt filed suit for age discrimination, but the Court dismissed his claim.  It held that the "short-timer" comment was merely a "stray remark"--a term the courts have devised recently to justify ignoring evidence of actual discrimination.  In theory, the court looks to who made the remark, whether it was within the scope of employment and the decision-making process, and whether it was vague or isolated. Obviously the proximity of the comment to the adverse employment action is a relevant consideration.

In this case, the Court pointed to ambiguity about the relationship of the two sibling companies within the building to term the age statement a "stray remark" and held that the hiring of several younger workers after Hunt's lay-off was insufficient "indirect evidence" of discrimination to allow Hunt's claim to go forward.  The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice.  The court concluded that the supervisor had articulated other "non-disciminatory" reasons for firing Hunt, including the simple fact that he personally disliked Hunt.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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