X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:PB Power Inc. hired Fred Machinchick in 1996, when Machinchick was in his late 50s, to be director of business development in Houston. His job was to develop new energy sector clients. He received excellent job performance reviews in 1997 and 1998 and was promoted to vice president. Jim Knowlton, a PB a vice president in the company’s San Francisco office, became Machinchick’s supervisor in December 2001. The next month, Knowlton said he was changing PB’s business development philosophy. Instead of having one person develop clients and then pass those clients off to other people to negotiate and close deals, the same person would take the process from “cradle to grave.” Knowlton released a statement saying he wanted to handpick employees for these jobs, employees with a 21st Century mindset. In April 2002, Knowlton announced that he was engaging in a recruitment program to lure younger engineers and designers to the company. Two days after the announcement, in an e-mail sent to human resources personnel, Knowlton complained of Machinchick’s shortcomings as an employee, including his belief that Machinchick had “[l]ow motivation to adapt to a rapidly changing business environment and new company management style.” Without prior notice as required by the company’s written disciplinary policy Knowlton informed Machinchick on April 17 that he was being fired due to performance concerns. Machinchick agreed to stay on until May 31, during which time Machinchick, who was 63 years old at this point, turned over his client base to 42-year-old Mike Betz. Machinchick sued PB under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. The district court granted summary judgment for PB on both claims. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. The court goes through all of the possible analyses applied to workplace discrimination claims, declaring that it will apply the integrated approach where a plaintiff seeking to establish an ADEA claim using circumstantial evidence must still demonstrate a prima facie case of discrimination. The burden then shifts to the defendant, which then must articulate a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the decision to fire the plaintiff. If that is done, the plaintiff must then offer enough evidence to create a fact issue on whether the employer’s proffered reason is a pretext, or whether the reason is only one motivating factor in the decision to terminate the plaintiff, and the other motivating factor is the plaintiff’s age.. Under McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973), a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of age discrimination by showing that “(1) he was discharged; (2) he was qualified for the position; (3) he was within the protected class at the time of discharge; and (4) he was either i) replaced by someone outside the protected class, ii) replaced by someone younger, or iii) otherwise discharged because of his age.The court finds that Machinchick established a prima facie case. The court finds it does not have to decide whether Machinchick was replaced by Belz, the younger worker, because of Machinchick’s age. This, the fourth and final element of a prima facie case, is satisfied by Knowlton’s announcement that he was going to recruit younger engineers and designers. Also, Knowlton use of “age stereotyping remarks” was evidence that Machinchick was terminated because of his age; for instance, Knowlton said Machinchick was unable to adapt to change and had a “business-as-usual” attitude. Belz’s retention, coupled with Machinchick’s termination, gives rise to an inference that Machinchick was terminated because of his age. And Knowlton’s inquiry of Machinchick about when he was going to retire gave rise to a similar inference. The court then reviews whether, once the burden shifted to PB, PB produced a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for firing Machinchick. PB did produce such a reason when it said it fired Machinchick because he performed inadequately under the new “cradle to grave” business strategy. Next, the court considers whether Machinchick produced evidence to create a fact issue related to PB’s stated reason for terminating him. Machinchick offered some evidence that PB’s reason given for firing him was, at least in part, motivated by age discrimination. The court rules that the evidence, taken as a whole, does show that age was one motivating factor. The court also rules that PB did not brief on appeal the issue of whether it would have terminated Machinchick even absent age considerations. For the same reasons as those given above, the court also finds Machinchick met all of his evidentiary burdens under the TCHRA. OPINION:Patrick E. Higginbotham, J.; Higginbotham, Smith and Benavides, JJ.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.