Appeals Court Upholds Firing of Threatening Employee

June 26, 2003 ( - An insurance company didn't violate a federal anti-discrimination law by sacking a worker who had reportedly threatened "to take a few people out" if he were let go, a federal appeals court ruled.

>The US 3 rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court in ruling that Mutual of Omaha didn’t violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) when it fired James Carilli as the manager of its Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office, according to Aspen Publishing.

According to the ruling, Carilli had a well-documented history of intimidating and belittling employees and creating an atmosphere of hostility in his office. In August 1999, three members of senior management visited the Pittsburgh office to investigate complaints about Carilli and his management style.

In October, after the investigation, the senior management advised Mutual of Omaha’s human resources department that Carilli had held a meeting with the three of them during which Carilli made references to a gun he owned. He made allusions to some association with organized crime and referred to his gun as “his equalizer,” Carilli was reported to have claimed that “a gun made all men equal.”

Later that month, the human resources department received a telephone call from one of. Carilli’s Pittsburgh employees, who purportedly had overheard Carilli state that “if they’re going to fire me, I’m going to take my gun and I’m taking a few people out.”

Based on these reports, members of Mutual of Omaha’s senior management flew to Pittsburgh and, with security present, terminated Carilli. Carilli responded by filing suit against Mutual of Omaha in the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, claiming that he was illegally terminated on the basis of his age. However, the district court ruled in favor of Mutual of Omaha, and on appeal, the 3rd Circuit affirmed that ruling.

“Although Carilli presented evidence to the district court questioning the underlying truth of the allegations forming the basis for the committee’s decision to terminate him, Carilli does not allege, let alone present evidence, that the committee did not receive the reports of Carilli’s violent threats nor credit and act in reliance thereupon,” appeals judges wrote. “The most that the committee can be criticized for is not permitting Carilli the chance to present evidence rebutting the allegations against him. However, such a failure does not demonstrate that the basis of the committee’s action was discriminatory, nor does it support Carilli’s claim of pretext, absent some evidence of discriminatory animus by that committee.”

The case isCarilli v. Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company(No. 02-3533).