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No Age Bias Claim After Retirement Notice

Deborah Elkins//August 16, 2012

No Age Bias Claim After Retirement Notice

Deborah Elkins//August 16, 2012

A Richmond U.S. District Court grants summary judgment to defendant school board in this race and age discrimination suit filed by an African-American plaintiff over 70 years old whose position as maintenance director was eliminated by the board.

Plaintiff claims the board’s termination of his employment and refusal to compensate him for accumulated annual leave under an alleged oral agreement were racially discriminatory, in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 623.

Plaintiff neither discredits the board’s proffered justification for eliminating his position nor shows that the board’s true reason for the adverse employment action was discriminatory. The board offers two legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for terminating plaintiff’s position: its belief that he wanted to retire and budgetary constraints. Plaintiff sent the superintendent a letter announcing his intended retirement date. The superintendent received a letter from plaintiff’s supervisor confirming plaintiff’s intent to retire and assuring that the paperwork was forthcoming. Based on these communications, the superintendent told the board of plaintiff’s plans to retire. It is well documented that throughout every step of the decision-making process, the board believed plaintiff intended to retire. Though the board’s belief may have ultimately been mistaken, it is undisputed that the board’s belief was genuine. Plaintiff personally acknowledged that the board eliminated his position because its members believed he wanted to retire.

Even if plaintiff were to raise a question of pretext, the evidence altogether fails to show that the board considered his race when it eliminated his position. Plaintiff attempts to show racial animus from the superintendent’s email to the board stating “everyone is afraid of what he and his friends will do.” Though the superintendent later clarified that she feared the NAACP would become involved in the imbroglio, she did not communicate that to the board. A conflict with the superintendent is irrelevant because it does not show that the board’s action amounts to racial discrimination.

Plaintiff also claims the board breached its oral contract to pay him for unused annual leave, due to his race. This claim fails because plaintiff does not establish that the contract ever existed.

Finally, like plaintiff’s race discrimination claim, his claim for age-based discrimination fails because he offers no evidence exposing the board’s reasons as pretext, and he does not demonstrate that the age discrimination was the “but for” cause of the board’s actions.

Summary judgment for employer.

Harris v. Powhatan County School Board (Gibney) No. 3:11cv224, Aug. 7, 2012; USDC at Richmond, Va. VLW 012-3-375, 14 pp.


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