Three discrimination claims against Providence Hospital are dismissedThree middle-aged employees of Providence Hospital were all discharged on the same day, and two were immediately replaced by young women. The fifty-year olds filed suit, arguing that they were victims of an effort targeting older employees, particularly women, for dismissal and replacement with younger, cheaper workers. The trial court held that they had established a prima facie case of discrimination, but that it had been rebutted by Providence's proferred evidence of legitimate non-discriminatory grounds for discharge. The employees claimed that these proferred alternative grounds were mere pretext and that younger, or whiter, employees were not treated in the same manner by Providence.
On Appeal, the Court held that the employees had not satisfied their burden of proof. It noted, first, that the statistics used by the fired workers to demonstrate prejudice against older and black employees were not properly made a part of the record. In addition, it held that the Hospital claims a "no-tolerance" policy for theft and "falsification of records," thereby justifying discharge of the two of the plaintiffs--even for admittedly trivial breaches.
Providence claimed the third employee was observed appearing to sleep during a morning meeting, and she had not provided evidence of any other sleeping employee receiving disparate treatment. On this basis, the Appellate Court held that the employees had not established a prima facie case of discrimination, and that even if they had, the "legitimate" basis for their firing, provided by Providence, would preclude a jury verdict in the employees' favor.