August 25, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Absent Alleged Age Discrimination, Petitioner Still Would Have Been Fired for Violation of Company Policy

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Simmons v. Sykes Enterprises, Incorp. on Thursday, June 2, 2011.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. Petitioner appeals the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of her former employer, Respondent, on her claim of discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. The district court concluded that Petitioner failed to establish that Respondent’s reason for terminating her employment was pretextual.

The Court determined that Respondent honestly relied in good faith upon the reported inconsistencies both in Petitioner’s statements and between her statements and the statements of others regarding the disclosure of confidential information. Petitioner’s position “as an HR assistant carried with it a special duty to safeguard and maintain confidential employee information”; facts suggest that Respondent’s decision to terminate Petitioner stemmed from a desire for greater confidence in its HR staff, further evinced by its decision to also terminate another younger employee “who allegedly violated similar rules of confidentiality and investigatory protocol and was fired at the same time as Petitioner.” Ultimately, absent the alleged discriminatory bias, Respondent would still have fired Petitioner because she “violated company policy and could not be trusted with confidential information.”

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