Schechner v. KPIX-TV, 2012 WL 1922088 (9th Cir. 2012)

William Schechner (age 66) and John Lobertini (age 47) were television news reporters for KPIX-TV in San Francisco who alleged age discrimination when they were laid off after a network directive was issued, requiring each of its affiliates to reduce its annual budget by 10 percent. The district court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. However, the appellate court held, contrary to the district court, that a plaintiff’s statistical evidence need not necessarily account for an employer’s proffered nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action in order to make out a prima facie case of discrimination. The Court nevertheless affirmed summary judgment because KPIX had met its burden of offering a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the layoffs (i.e., it laid off general assignment reporters based on the date of their contract expiration) and because Schechner and Lobertini had failed to show the proffered reason was mere pretext for age discrimination. The Court also held that KPIX was entitled to a “favorable same-actor inference because [it was the same managers who] signed Schechner and Lobertini to new contracts not long before they laid [them] off.”