National City fires 34 year employee; age discrimination claim dismissed
Apparently Julie Mead survived 34 years at National City without being competent. The bank fired its loyal, long-time employee in 2006, after the long-time direct sales executive began receiving negative ratings in 2005. The Court found that Mead, age 52, was a member of a protected class (because of her age), was qualified for her position, and was the only person terminated--and thus the only person affected by the employer's actions, raising an inference of discrimination. Nevertheless, it allowed her case to be dismissed because National City proferred a "legitimate nondiscriminatory reason" for her termination--that is, because it had papered her file over the previous 18 months with suggestions of incompetence that hadn't surfaced during her prior 30+ years of work.
After National City presented its evidence of Mead's sudden display of "lack of qualifications," Mead responded with testimony from her previous supervisor attesting to the fact that Mead was, in fact, fully qualified to perform her job. Despite these proofs, which one exercising common sense would consider to raise a question of fact to be decided by the jury, the Court dismissed Mead's claim because she could not prove that anyone outside the protected class was treated differently than her. Although Mead identified one younger employee who also usually fell in the lowest twenty percent of employee rankings but was not fired, the Court did not consider this employee to be "similarly situated" because for the last 3 months both women were employed, she ranked a few spots above Mead.