In Lowe v. Walbro, LLC (6th Cir. 19-2386, 8/26/2020), the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment for the employer against Lowe’s Michigan state-law age discrimination claims. Plaintiff Lowe worked as an area manager for the employer. He was 60 and had worked for the employer for 40 years. In 2016, the employer hired another manager, Davidson, who was 35. Davidson removed responsibilities from Lowe until he was only supervising 2 employees. Another manager then decided to eliminate Lowe’s position as unnecessary given his limited responsibility. Lowe presented evidence that Davidson told him in his termination meeting that he was “getting up there in years” and was “at retirement age.” The district court concluded the comments were not direct evidence of discrimination and granted the employer summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding it had “no difficulty” concluding Davidson’s comments constituted direct evidence of discrimination, and further that triable issues existed as to whether the employer would have terminated Lowe for performance problems notwithstanding any age-related animus.
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