Massachusetts Court Tosses Out Avon Discrimination Verdict

January 24, 2003 ( - The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has thrown out a $633,000 jury award in an age discrimination case involving Avon.

The state’s high court ruled that plaintiff Mary Shea Knight had to show that she was replaced with a substantially younger person after her firing in order to show age discrimination, according to a National Law Journal article. The court threw out the earlier verdict in favor of Knight and ordered that the case be decided in favor of the cosmetic marketing company. Knight’s replacement was 28 months younger.

According to the Law Journal article, Knight owned two stores that also sold cosmetics when Avon hired her. She agreed to close one and have her daughter operate the other. Once hired, Knight temporarily covered two Avon territories. In one, she was replaced by a 24-year-old and, and after her termination, by a 43-year-old in the other.

On appeal, Avon argued and the Supreme Judicial court agreed, that Knight was replaced by the 43-year-old, not the 24-year-old. Avon said Knight had no age discrimination claim because her replacement was not substantially younger.

The case is Knight v. Avon Products Inc., No. SJC-08776.