A recent Ohio appellate court case, Wigglesworth v. Mettler Toledo International, Inc., Franklin County No. 09AP-411, March 16, 2010, examined an employer’s reasons for terminating a 51 year old employee who alleged that his termination was based upon his age. A long-term employee was criticized in connection with his interaction with co-workers and his inability to adapt to new technologies. The employee was provided opportunities to improve his performance deficiencies, but the problems continued and the employee was terminated after 19 years of service. Employee sued, alleging age discrimination.
Both the trial court and the appellate court held that employee could not establish a claim for age discrimination. To prevail on an age discrimination claim an employee must establish that (1) he is a member of a statutorily protected class, (2) he was discharged, (3) he was qualified for the position, and (4) he was replaced by a substantially younger person. The employer must then demonstrate a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for discharging employee. Employee must then establish that the reasons given by employer were not the true basis for the discharge, but merely a pretext for age discrimination.
In this case the court examined whether the employer honestly believed the reasons it provided for the termination. The court found that employee could not establish an age discrimination claim as the employer presented evidence of long-standing, well documented performance issues which were legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for its decision.
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