In Sheppard v. David Evans and Associates, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that, a plaintiff asserting causes of action for Age Discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”) and for wrongful discharge under Oregon law had satisfied the Federal Rules of Civil Porceudre, Rule 8(a)(2)‘s pleading standards, despite its brevity.

Rule 8(a)(2) requires that each claim in a pleading be supported by “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”  Plaintiff satisfied Rule 8(a)(2) as to her age discrimination claim by satisfying the elements under the “disparate treatment” theory of discrimination, which requires: (1) “circumstantial evidence” of age discrimination; or (2) “direct evidence” of age discrimination.  Claims of age discrimination based on circumstantial evidence are analyzed under the following “three-stage burden shifting framework”:  

[T]he employee must first establish a prima facie case of age discrimination. If the employee has justified a presumption of discrimination, the burden shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its adverse employment action. If the employer satisfies its burden, the employee must then prove that the reason advanced by the employer constitutes mere pretext for unlawful discrimination. . .

To establish a prima facie case of discrimination, a plaintiff must allege in her complaint that: (1) she was at least forty years old; (2) she was performing her job satisfactorily; (3) discharged; and (4) “either replaced by [a] substantially younger [employee] with equal or inferior qualifications or discharged under circumstances otherwise giving rise to an inference of age discrimination.” Id. (emphasis added) (internal quotation marks omitted). “An inference of discrimination can be established by showing the employer had a continuing need for the employee[’s] skills and services in that their various duties were still being performed . . . Or by showing that others not in their protected class were treated more favorably.”

Here, the Court explained, the operative complaint alleged a “plausible” prima facie case of age discrimination: (1) she was at least forty years old; (2) her performance was satisfactory or better and that she had received consistently good performance reviews; (3) she was discharged; and (4) her five younger comparators kept their jobs.  This last allegation “gives rise to an ‘inference of age discrimination,” the Court ruled.

Likewise, the Ninth Circuit found her wrongful discharge claim satisfied Oregon law in that she had alleged sufficient facts to plausibly suggest that she was terminated for requesting medical leave.