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Understanding Age Discrimination: Kathryn Sheppard v. David Evans & Associates Sheds Some Light

On behalf of California Civil Rights Law Group posted in Workplace Discrimination on Wednesday, April 24, 2013.

The plaintiff of this case is a forty year old female who was wrongfully terminated after she returned from medical leave. Kathryn Sheppard v. Daniel Evans and Assoc. establishes the requirements for a statement of claim of age discrimination. This case overturned previous decisions of the district court, which had ruled that a statement of claim for age discrimination lacked factual detail.

This case found that Sheppard’s complaint did in fact satisfy the requirements of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act 1967 (ADEA). This act prohibits an employer from, among other things, discharging an employee because of their age.

Sheppard’s claim was initially dismissed by the district court on the grounds that did not satisfy section 8(2)(a) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure by failing to plead any cause of action with sufficient factual detail to state a claim. However, the Court of Appeal found that although Sheppard’s statement of claim was brief, she had written a plain and simple statement satisfying section 8(2)(a). She had also written a plausible claim with both circumstantial and direct evidence.

Under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Act, which clearly states that a “short and plain statement” is sufficient to state a claim for relief, Sheppard had met her burden as far as the appellate court was concerned.

The “Disparate Treatment” theory of discrimination a plaintiff in an ADEA case can establish age discrimination based on the following:

  • circumstantial evidence of age discrimination
  • direct evidence of age discrimination

Claims of age discrimination based on circumstantial evidence are analyzed as the “three-stage burden shifting framework” (set in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green). According to this test, “[T]he employee must first establish a prima facie case of age discrimination. If the employee has justified a presumption of discrimination, the burden shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its adverse employment action. If the employer satisfies its burden, the employee must then prove that the reason advanced by the employer constitutes mere pretext for unlawful discrimination.”

Sheppard’s complaint makes the following allegations:

  • she was at least forty years old;
  • “her performance was satisfactory or better” and that “she received consistently good performance reviews”;
  • she was discharged; and
  • her five younger comparators kept their jobs.

In a statement of claim of age discrimination, it is also required that there be a “casual connection” that the employee’s protected activity was a substantial motivating factor in the employer’s decision to discharge. The court found that Sheppard’s statement also met this requirement.

As a result, the appellate court reversed the district court’s dismissal of Sheppard’s case and remanded the case for further proceedings.

2017-12-08T22:04:40+00:00