Tom Ahl Buick prevailed in an age discrimination suit despite the fact that owner Tom Ahl told the plaintiff his Lima dealership was having a “youth movement.” He later demoted the 40-something plaintiff from his sales manager position and hired a 25-year-old former furniture salesman to take over.
In court, Ahl testified that his comment reflected the changing nature of the business—that younger people, who are more adept at new technology, are essential in the workforce today. Sounds like a slam-dunk for age discrimination.
But Ahl, along with several managers, testified that the plaintiff was fired because of his attitude and poor productivity. The plaintiff himself testified, “Tom Ahl didn’t fire me due to my age particularly.” Ahl further showed that he’d fired two younger workers the year before for poor sales.
The court found Ahl’s “youth movement” comment vague, and noted it occurred three months before the manager was fired. The judge found that Ahl had legitimate performance reasons for the firing, and granted summary judgment.
- When picking candidates for promotion, use measurable criteria—and document it
- Train employees to avoid pestering workers who file lawsuits or in-house complaints
- Don't be afraid to fire insubordinate supervisor
- Letterman case spotlights boss-employee relationships
- Read EEOC and PHRC complaints carefully to avoid surprise lawsuits later