South-Western Legal Studies in Business

In Age Discrimination, Replacement Worker Should Be "Substantially Younger"
Description Appeals court held that a manager who was demoted for poor performance and replaced by a person six years younger, failed to provide a prima facie case of age discrimination. Absent other evidence, the age difference must be greater for there to be a presumption of discrimination in the employment action.
Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words Age Discrimination; Age Difference; Prima Facie Case
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Grosjean worked for First Energy since 1970. In 1997 he was promoted to a supervisory position. Two years later, when he was 54, his boss, Dressner, who was 41, removed Grosjean from his position, stating that he was not performing adequately as a personnel manager. Grosjean retained the same pay, but had less status. For a while, Gallagher, who was 48, replaced Grosjean. Then the position was given to Riley, who was 51. Grosjean sued for age discrimination for being denied promotion to his supervisory position. The trial court dismissed the suit. Grosjean appealed.

Affirmed. To establish a prima facie case of age discrimination, the employee is required to show that he was replaced by a significantly younger person. However, the younger person could also be over age 40. If that is shown, then the burden shifts to the employer. Here, in the absence of direct evidence that the employer considered age to be significant, an age difference of six years and three years between Grosjean and his replacements is not significant enough to establish that he was replaced by someone “substantially younger” as required for a prima facie case of age discrimination.

Citation Grosjean v. First Energy Corp., --- F.3d --- (2003 WL 22669177, 6th Cir., 2003)

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