Age Discrimination Case Falls Through

November 13, 2001 ( - A federal judge in Philadelphia has thrown out an age-discrimination lawsuit after finding that the plaintiff had no evidence to rebut the defendant's reason for laying him off.

Senior US District Judge Robert Kelly of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said that Ernest Merriweather needed harder proof that he was discriminated against, according to The Legal Intelligencer.

He ruled that Merriweather, a 57-year-old benefits coordinator for a teachers benefit fund, could not “rely on unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions.”

Plaintiff Laid Off in 1999

According to the suit, Merriweather lost the fund job in June 1999.

The fund said it eliminated Merriweather’s position for economic reasons and its successive hiring of two younger workers was more cost effective than retraining Mr. Merriweather.

The fund’s attorney argued that it saved more than $6,000 in wages, which allowed it to expand its programs within its budgetary constraints.

Merriweather contended that he was being discriminated against because of his age because it would have been more cost effective to retrain him for the new responsibilities his job would entail. The two new employees were ages 42 and 50.

However, the fund retained one employee who is seven months older than Merriweather as the only full-time benefits coordinator.

Merriweather’s lawyers argued that he was qualified for the new job as a result of his 13 years of experience teaching and his coursework toward a master’s degree that included classes in education research and development.

No Alternative Explanation

Kelly found that the defendant could not find an explanation for the $6,000 in wage savings the fund enjoyed. He also viewed the fund’s decision to retain the other benefits coordinator who is older than Merriweather as evidence against age discrimination.

The case is Merriweather v. Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health & Welfare Fund.