Encouragement to Retire Was Not Age Discrimination

September 19, 2013 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – A federal appellate court ruled that encouraging an employee to retire did not constitute age discrimination.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with an earlier ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida that in the case of Woolsey v. Town of Hillsboro Beach, just because the plaintiff’s employer encouraged him to retire did not mean that the employer was violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Plaintiff James Woolsey filed the lawsuit claiming his employer and the defendant, the Town of Hillsboro Beach, was practicing age discrimination. In 2008, the town’s chief of police promoted Woolsey, who was 49 years old at the time, to captain, the second-in-command of the police. In 2010, the two men were having disagreements in the workplace and the chief encouraged him to retire. When Woolsey did not, he was demoted.

According to the appellate court, while the plaintiff claimed the defendant failed to articulate legitimate, specific and nondiscriminatory reasons for his demotion, “the record indicates that the Chief demoted Woolsey because of his lack of loyalty, lack of supervisory skills, failure to perform at the level expected of Captain, failure to support the department’s accreditation process, and disagreements with him about how the department should have been run.”

In addition, the court found that the defendant had submitted “multiple letters of counseling and reprimand and negative performance evaluations issued to Woolsey.” The court found that as per Chapman v. AI Transp., the defendant had indeed articulated a clear and reasonably specific factual basis upon which to base its opinion.

Further, court said that the plaintiff needed to demonstrate that the reasons stated by the defendant were not true and that discrimination was the real reason. The court found that the plaintiff was not able to do so and therefore the district court was correct in ruling in favor of the defendant.

The full text of the appellate court’s ruling can be found here.