The United States District Court for the District of Idaho recently held in Wold v. El Centro Fin. Inc. that Kenneth Wold, a job applicant, had presented sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude that El Centro Finance Inc.’s decision not to hire him was motivated by age bias.
After receiving a cover letter and resume from Wold in his application for a position as operations manager, El Centro’s chief executive officer inadvertently sent Wold an e-mail which stated, “Damn ... Check it out – I don’t know what I think. He must be old – and just looking for something to do.” After not receiving any further response, Wold filed a discrimination charge with the Idaho Human Rights Commission. During the course of the investigation, El Centro claimed that Wold was rejected because his application suggested aggressiveness.
Wold received a right to sue letter and filed suit in federal court. At the conclusion of discovery, El Centro filed a motion for summary judgment against Wold. In its motion, the company claimed that Wold’s application was never considered by the hiring coordinator. The District Court found that El Centro had offered inconsistent, and thus non-credible, explanations for the decision not to hire Wold based upon its statements to state investigators in relation to the charge with the Idaho Human Rights Commission and the contradictory defense El Centro raised with the court. Additionally, the court found that El Centro’s CEO’s e-mail to Wold was sufficient evidence of discriminatory animus. In particular, the comment “just looking for something to do” suggested an unacceptable bias by implying that older workers are seeking work “to just keep themselves busy.” The court stated that “[t]his broad, negative characterization of older employees is precisely the type of prohibited stereotype the ADEA seeks to remedy and gives rise to an inference of discrimination.”