In any employment discrimination case, the employee has the initial burden to show there was, in fact, illegal discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that in cases brought under federal anti-discrimination laws, a plaintiff needs to show four things:
- The plaintiff belongs to a “protected class,” e.g., women, African-Americans, disabled persons;
- The plaintiff was “qualified” for the job in question;
- The plaintiff was fired or otherwise “suffered an adverse employment action”; and
- The circumstances of the firing or adverse action give “rise to an inference of discrimination.”
Once the plaintiff provides proof of these four elements, the defendant then has an opportunity to present any “nondiscriminatory” reasons to justify its actions. The plaintiff, in order to continue the discrimination lawsuit, then has the burden of proving the defendant's reasons were merely a “false pretext” designed to mask discriminatory intent.
Manhattan Appeals Court Rejects Radiologist's Age Discrimination Lawsuit
Many employment discrimination cases fail at this point. Consider this recent example from Manhattan. The plaintiff in this lawsuit accused her former employer–a hospital–of age discrimination. Specifically, she alleged that the hospital failed to renew her appointment to the radiology department based on the fact that she was over the age of 60.
In response, the hospital said the plaintiff's position was eliminated as part of a department-wide reorganization. Due to the loss of clinical revenue because Medicare cut its reimbursement rates, the radiology department's leadership decided to emphasize its research programs. The plaintiff worked in the general radiology section, which did not produce any research. While some members of this section were reassigned to other positions within the department, the plaintiff was not, prompting her discrimination claim.
The New York Supreme Court accepted the hospital's explanation that there was no discriminatory intent. The hospital pointed to the fact that several radiologists age 60 and older–the same age class as the plaintiff–were given positions because they possessed the necessary skills and interest in conducting research. As the Appellate Division, First Department, noted in an opinion largely affirming a trial judge's earlier decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the hospital, the plaintiff failed to present any evidence to rebut the hospital's non-discriminatory reasons for her termination. Ultimately, the court said, the hospital was entitled to exercise its “academic judgment” and find the plaintiff's “practical experience insufficient to warrant reassigning her.”
Need Help Proving Employment Discrimination?
Age discrimination cases require more than conjecture or speculation. You must be able to show a judge or jury that your employer intentionally favored younger employees despite your equal or superior qualifications. As the case above illustrates, if your employer can show that you were not qualified for a particular position, that will end your case before it even gets to a jury.
Discrimination cases are always highly fact-specific. So if you suspect you have been the victim of discrimination based on your age or any other protected characteristic, it is important to get in touch with a New York employment law attorney as soon as possible so you can start building your case. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar today at (800) 496-3076 to schedule a consultation today.