South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Age Difference in Age Discrimination Case Less Importance than Substance of Case
Description Ohio high court held that a 49-year-old person who was fired and replaced by a 42-year-old had a prima facie case of age discrimination. The fact that the two are not far apart in age is not as important as an inquiry into the reason for the dismissal-was it based on age or not?
Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words Age Discrimination; Prima Facie Case; Age Differences
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Coryell, age 49, worked for Bank One for 19 years until he was replaced by a person age 42. Coryell sued Bank One for age discrimination. The trial court dismissed the suit, holding that Coryell failed to provide a prima facie case of age discrimination because the person who replaced him was also over age 40. The appeals court affirmed, holding also that there was insufficient age difference between Coryell and his replacement for there to possibly be a cause of action. Coryell appealed.
Decision

Reversed and remanded. To establish a prima facie case of age discrimination, there must be at least a logical connection between each element of the prima facie case and the illegal discrimination that establishes a legally mandatory, rebuttable presumption. There is no greater inference of age discrimination when a 40-year-old is replaced by a 39-year-old than when a 56-year-old is replaced by a 40-year-old. The ultimate inquiry is whether a plaintiff was discharged on account of age. Whether the age difference between 49 and 42 is "sufficient" depends on the circumstances of the case. The question in this case is whether Bank One articulated a nondiscriminatory ground for firing Coryell, so the case may proceed.

Citation Coryell v. Bank One Trust Co., 803 N.E.2d 781 (Sup. Ct., Ohio, 2004)

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