Replacement of Oldest Employee by Younger Employee Insufficient to Establish Age Discrimination

In Lago v. Wen Management Corp., 2016 WL 165834 (N.Y. Sup. Qns. Jan. 8, 2016), the court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment and dismissed plaintiff’s age discrimination, gender discrimination, and retaliation claims.

The court held that plaintiff’s discrimination claims faltered at the first step of the analysis (i.e., he failed to demonstrate a prima facie case of discrimination):

[D]efendants demonstrated that plaintiff cannot prove a prima facie case of age discrimination. Although plaintiff may have been the oldest employee in the rental office and although she may have been replaced by a younger employee, these facts, without more, are not sufficient to support an age discrimination claim. Plaintiff came forward with no evidence that [plaintiff’s supervisor] Wasserman had made remarks to her concerning her age. Plaintiff also cannot prove a prima facie case of gender discrimination. [A]lthough plaintiff, as a woman, is a member of a protected class, the evidence was insufficient to establish a prima facie case of sexual discrimination or harassment. Plaintiff did not produce sufficient evidence to establish a link between Wasserman’s alleged harsh treatment of her, such as speaking in a raised voice, and an alleged animus toward women. Plaintiff did not produce sufficient evidence showing that any different treatment or alleged harassment she experienced arose from gender or age or other protected classification, and mere personality conflicts must not be mistaken for unlawful discrimination. (Citations omitted.)
Even if plaintiff presented a prima facie case, defendants presented evidence to show that they terminated plaintiff for “legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons”, namely, that plaintiff “did not perform the work assigned to her in a competent manner.” It also pointed to evidence showing that, for example, no other employee had complained to management that the alleged discriminator discriminated against older or female workers.
In response, plaintiff failed to “raise a triable issue of fact concerning whether the reasons given by defendants for terminating her employment were merely pretextual.”
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