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Isolated comment not enough to prove age discrimination

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Do you worry that one ill-chosen comment could lead to a huge lawsuit? Don’t lose too much sleep unless the comment was grossly inappropriate.

Recent case: John Hyland, who was over age 40, worked as an attorney for American General.  A new supervisor arrived on the scene and learned that many employees complained about Hyland, claiming he was disorganized and didn’t finish projects.

The supervisor called a staff meeting to discuss problems and said, “Let’s hear from the old man of the operation.” Several months later, Hyland lost his job after the division was reorganized. He sued, claiming age discrimination, and pointed to the “old man” comment.

But the court dismissed the case. It said one stray comment on its own wasn’t enough to support an age discrimination claim. (Hyland v. American General, No. 06-6155, DC NJ, 2008)

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