The opinion of the court was delivered by: Decker, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Dean Matthews (Matthews), brought this suit against
his former employer, Allis-Chalmers Corp. (Allis-Chalmers or the
company). Matthews claims that Allis-Chalmers violated the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) when the Company fired
him from his position as an engineer in November, 1982. The case
is before the court on defendant's motion for summary judgment.
Allis-Chalmers hired Matthews as a designer in 1957. The
company promoted him to engineer and twice promoted him to Chief
Engineer, only to demote him back to engineer after each
promotion. Matthews was always on salary. On November 12, 1982,
Matthews' supervisor, Richard Killeen (Killeen), fired Matthews.
Killeen told Matthews that the discharge was for economic
reasons. Matthews was 54 years old.
Between January 4, 1980, and December 30, 1983, Allis-Chalmers
reduced its salaried work force by 221. Eighty of these were
forty or older. Matthews' termination came on the same day on
which the Company discharged thirteen other employees. Six of
these were over 40.
Matthews complains only of his firing. Matthews Dep. at 40. He
testified at his deposition that only Ed Northrup (Northrup), a
supervisor at Allis-Chalmers, discriminated against him on the
basis of his age: "My belief is that Ed Northrup. This I have no
evidence to back up, this is my belief." Id. at 41. Matthews
bases his opinion on two other "facts": that he would have been
eligible for early retirement at 55, id. at 53, and that "they
[Allis-Chalmers] have done the same thing to other people." Id.
at 43. Matthews knew nothing else that led him to believe that
Allis-Chalmers had discriminated against him. Id. at 46.
In setting forth the elements of a prima facie case of age
discrimination, the United States Court of Appeals for the
Seventh Circuit has applied the standards of McDonnell Douglas
Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668
(1973). Kephart v. Institute of Gas Technology, 630 F.2d 1217
(7th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 959, 101 S.Ct. 1418, 67
L.Ed.2d 383 (1981). Green was a case of alleged racial
discrimination in hiring. The Court held that the elements of a
prima facie case are that the plaintiff belongs to the protected
class, that he was qualified for the job, that he was not hired,
and that the employer continued to seek applicants for the job.
411 U.S. at 802, 93 S.Ct. at 1824. The Court added the caution
that "[t]he facts necessarily will vary in Title
VII cases, and the specification above of the prima facie proof
required from respondent is not necessarily applicable in every
respect to differing factual situations." Id. at 802 n. 13, 93
S.Ct. at 1824 n. 13.
In age discrimination discharge cases, courts have required the
plaintiff to show that he is in the protected age group, that he
was satisfying the legitimate business expectations of the
employer, that he was nevertheless fired, and that he was
replaced by a younger person. See, e.g., Loeb v. Textron,
600 F.2d 1003, 1014 (1st Cir. 1979). The last element has no role in
a reduction-in-force case such as this one; by definition, when
the employer reduces his work force he hires no one to replace
the ones he lets go. See Williams v. General Motors Corp.,
656 F.2d 120, 128 (5th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 943, 102
S.Ct. 1439, 71 L.Ed.2d 655 (1982). The question is whether to
require plaintiffs to show more than their age, qualifications,
The purpose of a prima facie case is to eliminate the most
common nondiscriminatory reasons for the plaintiff's discharge.
Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248,
254, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 1094, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981). "[W]hen all
legitimate reasons for rejecting an applicant have been
eliminated as possible reasons for the employer's actions, it is
more likely than not that the employer, who we generally assume
acts only with some reason, based his decision on an
impermissible consideration such as race." Furnco Construction
Co. v. Waters, 438 U.S. 567, 577, 98 S.Ct. 2943, 2949, 57 L.Ed.2d
957 (1978). The focus of the prima facie case is on causation:
the plaintiff must show enough to make it appear more likely than
not that age was a factor in the discharge. See Huhn v. Koehring
Co., 718 F.2d 239, 243 (7th Cir. 1983) ("[T]o establish a cause
of action under the ADEA, a claimant must show that he was
discriminated against because of his age").
Unlike the employer who passes over a qualified minority
applicant, the employer who fires a qualified older employee as
part of a reduction-in-force does nothing inherently suspicious.
One expects nondiscriminating employers to hire qualified
applicants rather than keep looking. To do otherwise raises a
fair inference of discrimination. In the reduction-in-force case,
the employer often must discharge qualified employees. The
nondiscriminating employer will choose whom to discharge on the
basis of their relative contributions to the business. That the
one chosen happens to be older by itself raises no fair inference
of discrimination — those who remain may be more productive. The
age discrimination plaintiff in this type of case must show more.
One court which has faced the question required the plaintiff
to show "some other indirect evidence from which a logical
inference of discrimination can be made . . . [s]uch [as]
statistics showing a pattern or practice of age discrimination or
statements indicating that age was a factor in the employment
decision." Bobbitt v. PBA, Inc., 31 FEP Cases 366, 367 (D.Minn.
1983). This is a reasonable burden to place on the plaintiff.
Again, he is not entitled to recover unless he can prove that he
was fired because of his age. Huhn, 718 F.2d at 243. He simply
must show some evidence of causation.
Matthews points to no discriminatory statements by
Allis-Chalmers employees. Statistics show that Allis-Chalmers'
reduction in force affected younger employees more severely than
older ones, particularly in Matthews' Department. Exhibits A and
B to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Matthews identifies
no less productive younger employees whom Allis-Chalmers retained
instead of him.