In Ridout v. JBS USA, LLC, Lyle Ridout was discharged as superintendent at a pork processing plant in Iowa after an incident arising out of an equipment failure. Ridout had worked for the company for 40 years. After the equipment failure, resulting in a significant backlog of product, Ridout and plant management met next to a large and noisy piece of equipment. Ridout became visibly upset, swore, and raised his voice. The plant general manager told Ridout to go home and the Company subsequently terminated him for “insubordination.” The employer replaced Ridout (age 62) with two substantially younger employees in their thirties.
In his lawsuit alleging age discrimination, Ridout explained that he raised his voice to be heard over the noise of the equipment, and due to hearing loss from working over forty years at the plant, he tended to speak loudly. Other supervisors testified in deposition that it was common to raise one’s voice on the factory floor because of the equipment noise, and that heated arguments involving swearing were relatively common. No one could recall a single instance, other than Ridout’s case, where any employee had been terminated for yelling or swearing. Reversing a summary judgment in the employer’s favor, the federal Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a jury must decide whether Ridout’s termination was motivated by his age.