Legal Issues

Employee Claims Age Discrimination, Says He Got “Office Space” Treatment

Office Space - Milton

By Eric B. Meyer

If the movie Office Space has taught me anything, it’s to wear 37 pieces of flair to work — do more than the bare minimum — and to use a cover sheet with my TPS reports.

And never mess with a man’s stapler. That too. Especially when you’re also moving the man’s desk four times and sending him to the basement. Because that could be age discrimination.

No, seriously. I was reading this decision from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. It involves claim of age discrimination where, the over-40 plaintiff claimed that he was “functionally replaced” by an employee who was substantially younger than he.

“He was functionally replaced”

Functionally replaced?!? Here’s how the court described it:

Plaintiff contests Defendant’s argument, citing to the following evidence that he was functionally replaced: White received a pay raise; White was attending meetings and giving advice in areas that were within the job responsibilities of Plaintiff; White was performing tasks that were usually performed by Plaintiff; Defendant was trying to move White into a “nicer and more well placed office” and move Plaintiff to a smaller office in the basement of the facility; and, the deposition testimony of Art Fastman, the Executive Director of the facility and Plaintiff’s superior, which seemingly supports his argument that he was replaced by White. In light of these allegations, we find that Plaintiff has adequately presented evidence to infer at the summary judgment stage that he was functionally replaced by a substantially younger employee (White).”

Dudes! They moved him to the friggin’ basement! They gave him the Milton!

Ultimately, the plaintiff was able to show that the manner in which he was treated compared to White, plus the timing of the plaintiff’s termination (he had previously complained to management about age discrimination) showed discriminatory animus. Consequently, he was able to defeat the defendant’s motion for summary judgment and his age discrimination claims now proceed to trial.

It’s Friday. So, rather than leave you with a takeaway from this case, let’s go with a few scenes from Office Space. Classic!

And make sure to leave a few minutes early today. Just sayin’.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

Eric B. Meyer is a partner in the Labor and Employment Group of the Philadelphia-based law firm of Dilworth Paxson LLP . He dedicates his practice to litigating and assisting employers on labor and employment issues affecting the workplace, including collective bargaining, discrimination, employee handbook policies, enforcement of restrictive covenants, and trade secret protection. Eric also serves as a volunteer mediator for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Contact him at emeyer@dilworthlaw.com .