Employment & Labor Law

This summary also appears under Civil Rights

 

Issues: Age discrimination; The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (MCL 37.2101 et seq.); MCL 37.2202; The "burden-shifting approach"; McDonnell-Douglas Corp. v. Green; Sniecinski v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield; Showing that "the employer promoted a younger applicant under circumstances giving rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination"; Hazle v. Ford Motor Co.; Claim that the defendant failed to rehire plaintiff after a lay off based on her age; Whether the defendant provided a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason; "Pretext"; Smith v. Goodwill Indus. of W. MI, Inc.

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)

Case Name: Titsworth v. Shiawassee Sports Ctr., Inc.

e-Journal Number: 57781

Judge(s): Per Curiam – Donofrio, Saad, and Meter

 

The court held that the plaintiff did not satisfy the fourth element required to establish a prima facie case as to her claim that the defendant failed to promote her based on age. Further, defendant provided a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for failing to rehire her after a lay off and she did not present evidence that it was pretextual. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court's order granting defendant summary disposition. Defendant conceded that plaintiff satisfied the first three elements needed to establish a rebuttable prima facie case of unlawful discrimination under the McDonnell-Douglas approach as to her promotion claim. However, it correctly argued "plaintiff did not satisfy the fourth element because she did not present evidence showing that the circumstances in which the promotion occurred gave rise to an inference of unlawful discrimination." While H was 15 years younger than plaintiff when H was hired, no evidence suggested that defendant chose to hire H rather than promote plaintiff because of plaintiff's age. H and plaintiff "were similarly qualified for the position." H had 12 years of experience in retail management, including 3 years managing retail-clothing stores, while plaintiff had 11 years of experience managing a retail store and 5 years of experience in sales with defendant. "Thus, no inference of discrimination can be drawn from the candidates' qualifications. Neither can such an inference be drawn from the hiring process." A, who was defendant's general merchandise manager at the time, clearly did not discriminate against plaintiff because of her age while selecting candidates for the owner and general manager's (L) review - A encouraged her to apply for the promotion. L looked at the names on each file, kept 3 files for candidates in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, and handed back files for plaintiff and a second employee, who were in their 50s. However, L looked only at the names on the files, and no evidence suggested he knew all the candidates or their ages. "He knew these two women, as well as another applicant, but not necessarily the other two candidates who, to his knowledge," also could have been in their 50s. During the second round, L again refused to consider plaintiff and the second employee. "With no more evidence than these two isolated decisions to reject plaintiff's application," the conclusion that L refused to promote her due to her age was "mere speculation" and insufficient to establish an inference of unlawful discrimination. As to her rehiring claim, defendant asserted that it delayed rehiring plaintiff due to her work performance, not her age, "and significantly, defendant did eventually recall plaintiff to work."

 

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