On July 19, 2017, Jaime Walker Luse obtained a defense verdict on behalf of a minority business enterprise following a three-day jury trial in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland. The primary issue was whether the employer’s decision to terminate the plaintiff was motivated by an intent to discriminate against him on the basis of age. The plaintiff also claimed that the employer had failed to pay him overtime for work he performed at home in violation of Maryland wage laws. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer on the plaintiff’s overtime claim, and the case proceeded to trial on the age discrimination claim.
The plaintiff, who was 66 years old at the time of termination, alleged that the employer’s reason for his termination – unprofessional workplace conduct – was pretextual. The employer, a government sub-contractor, based its decision to terminate the plaintiff in large part on information that it received from the government prime contractor. The employer was informed that the plaintiff yelled at a co-worker in front of a customer, engaged in behavior that made a female co-worker feel uncomfortable, was removed from a project at the request of the customer, and refused to share information with his co-workers. The plaintiff’s supervisor met with him to discuss these incidents and, because the plaintiff refused to acknowledge his inappropriate behavior and continued to demonstrate that he was not a team player after the meeting, he was fired shortly thereafter.
The plaintiff based his pretext argument on the employer’s (1) failure to investigate the incidents reported by the prime contractor, and (2) failure to progressively discipline him. The defense presented evidence that it was reasonable for the employer to rely upon information received from the prime contractor without investigation because the plaintiff worked on-site with the prime contractor and it was the prime contractor that independently observed the plaintiff’s daily work. The defense also presented evidence that the employer did not have a written progressive discipline policy and filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence that the employer had progressively disciplined two other employees. The circuit court granted the motion, holding that the other employees were not similarly situated to the plaintiff and that the evidence would be unfairly prejudicial. After deliberating for less than twenty minutes, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the employer.
Jaime is a partner at Tydings, and she currently serves as a member of DRI’s Law Institute.
Tydings is a Maryland-based law firm serving clients throughout the mid-Atlantic region. The firm provides legal services in a variety of areas, including employment counseling and litigation, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, business, corporate, tax, commercial litigation, IP, real estate, estates and trusts, and family law.