South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Management Discussion Provided Evidence of Age Discrimination Intention
Description Appeals court held that a jury properly found a company to have engaged in age discrimination when it dismissed an older sales representative in favor of a younger person. There was sufficient evidence of the company’s decision to establish a younger sales force and push out the older representatives.
Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words Age Discrimination; Evidence
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Palasota was a sales associate for Haggar for 28 years when he was fired at age 51. He oversaw major accounts and was highly regarded for his work with customers. The company decided to change its image and transferred many sales functions to a group of new, young women who replaced males over age 40. Palasota was fired. He was told that his position was eliminated and that his services were not needed. Palasota sued for age and gender discrimination. At trial he showed that his sales functions were turned over to the new, young women who had been hired and that the company stated in memos that it was changing its image to a younger look. The jury found Haggar liable for age discrimination and awarded Palasota $842,219 in back pay. The judge overturned the verdict, holding that Palasota failed to show that age was a determinative factor in the matter. He appealed.

Reversed and remanded. Evidence of age discrimination must be: 1) age related; 2) proximate in time to the termination; 3) made by an individual with authority over the termination; and 4) related to the employment decision. The company memo written shortly before Palasota’s dismissal discussed the company’s plan to “thin the ranks” of older sales associates. Managers stated that the company needed racehorses, not plow horses, and that there was a “graying of the sales force” that the company had to “find a way to get though.” The jury properly determined that this evidence was sufficient to uphold a finding of age discrimination.

Citation Palasota v. Haggar Clothing Co., 342 F.3d 569 (5th Cir., 2003)

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