School Principal Age Bias Suit Revived

August 25, 2010 ( – Disagreeing with a lower court, a federal appellate court has ruled that an Oklahoma City school principal should be allowed to proceed with her age bias lawsuit.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that plaintiff Judy F. Jones had presented strong enough evidence that her transfer from an executive director of curriculum position with the Oklahoma City Public Schools to that of a school principal represented illegal bias because of her age. 

Her May 2008 lawsuit alleged that the school system violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The lower court ruled that while Jones had set out a prima facie age discrimination case, she had not come forward with even more evidence that the decision to transfer her was age motivated.

“Showing that (Oklahoma City Public School)’s reasons for her transfer were pretextual, Jones was under no obligation to provide additional evidence of age discrimination,” wrote Circuit Judge Carlos F. Lucero, for the court, in sending the case back for further hearings. 

According to the opinion by Lucero, Jones was 60 when she was moved to the principal’s position in 2007; she had been asked about her expected retirement date prior to the job change. Shortly after that, the school district brought on another employee, 13 years her junior, for a job with a different title but with responsibilities that Lucero termed “strikingly similar” to those for Jones’s former position.

Lucero said during her first year of employment as an elementary school principal, Jones kept her previous salary level, but her vacation benefits were affected immediately. After a year, her salary was cut by about $17,000, which effectively reduced her retirement benefits.

Lucero noted: “Although (the school system) argues that Jones did not experience a demotion, she certainly lost professional prestige and fell to a lower position in the district’s organizational hierarchy.”

The 10th Circuit decision is at