The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, in Tomassi v. Insignia Fin. Group Inc., recently reversed summary judgment in favor of the employer, finding that a supervisor’s “stray remarks” provided a valid basis for an age discrimination claim. Patrica Tomassi, a 63 year-old employee, was fired and replaced by a 25 year-old. Tomassi complained that her supervisor asked about her retirement plans about once a month over three years and referenced her age when he fired her.
Under the “stray remarks” doctrine, a court recognizes that all comments pertaining to a protected class are not equally probative of discrimination. The Court of Appeals held that the District Court erred when it concluded that the supervisor’s comments were “stray remarks,” and, therefore, not actionable. The 2nd Circuit held that the evidence was “sufficient to sustain a reasonable finding that her dismissal was motivated at least in part by age discrimination,” and that the “stray remarks,” when coupled with the decision to replace Tomassi with a much younger worker, provided a triable issue under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.