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Woman's wrongful termination claim is summarily dismissed

Linda Hudson was hired in 2002 as a payables clerk at the Lost Lake Woods Club in Alcona County.  60 years old, she was terminated in 2010 under circumstances which she believed demonstrated age discrimination.  Although she had performed her job well for eight years and was replaced by a 38-year old, the trial judge ruled that Hudson had not presented any evidence of age discrimination.  The defendants had conceded that Hudson established the first three factors in proving discrimination:  she was a member of an age-protected class, she had suffered an adverse employment action, and she was clearly qualified to do the job from which she was discharged. 

Ultimately, the trial judge decided, however, that the case turned on whether the younger woman assumed Hudson's full duties, or whether they were scattered among multiple employees. He believed the Club's account that the duties were shared and dismissed Hudson's arguments that her core job was entirely taken over by the younger employee. On that basis, he summarily dismissed Hudson's claim.  The Court of Appeals acknowleged that the judge inappropriately decided a factual and credibility claim prematurely, but still upheld the summary disposition.  The Court of Appeals ruled that Hudson hadn't proved that her firing resulted from age discrimination, but rather was based on poor performance.

On the latter point, Hudson denied that her performance was ever deficient or justified dismissal, and she argued that the Club's supposed criticisms were mere pretext.  (Listen to the criticisms offered:  Hudson "showed resistance to change;" she "needed to improve her ability to adapt to new situations 'without being frazzled.' "  These characterizations hint at age prejudice on the part of the evaluator as much as they describe incompetence by the employee...) In any event, even though this evidence is clearly suggestive of a potentially valid age discrimination claim, the Court held that it should be summarily dismissed without a trial before a jury where jurors would decide who to believe.

The Court did not give any credence to Hudson's argument that the Defendants' explanations for her termination were subject to close scrutiny because they shifted several times.  Sadly, the activist Republican judges selected for our Court system consider it appropriate to summarily decide issues without honoring the Constitutional language allowing claimants a right to a jury trial. This sets a tone in Michigan where favored claims and defenses get preferential treatment from judges who are unduly ready to resolve cases without complete development; after all, it is "good for commerce" if not for "justice."

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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