In a published opinion by Massachusetts United States District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns, Bennett & Belfort partner Eric LeBlanc successfully defeated Defendant’s motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims of age discrimination under M.G.L.c. 151B and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
In Seifaee, the 61-year-old Plaintiff was terminated as part of a reduction in force, along with 13 other employees – all over the age of 55. Seifaee v. Areva, Inc., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152356 (D. Mass. Nov. 10, 2015). Plaintiff brought federal and state law claims alleging discrimination based on disparate treatment and disparate impact as a result of his age, as well as claims of unlawful interference arising from Defendant’s alleged misconduct.
In denying Defendant’s motion, the Court indicated that the age related statistical evidence presented by Plaintiff may well be sufficient by itself to permit a finding in plaintiff’s favor. In relevant part, the Court stated:
“At the end of the day, however, the mere fact alone that a supposedly objective process could look across a company at 136 employees and happen by chance to select an entire cohort of persons aged 55 or older for termination, while possible, seems statistically improbable (as Seifaee’s expert contends) and that alone might justify a verdict in Seifaee’s favor…The credibility of Seifaee’s statistical evidence is a question for the jury.” Id. at 13-12.
Further, the Court found that the age-related disparate impact claims are actionable under M.G.L.c. 151B, despite earlier First Circuit case law that brought this into question. Specifically, the Court acknowledged that Mullin v. Raytheon Co., 154 F.3d 696 (1st Cir. 1999) no longer controls, stating “[i]n Mullin, the First Circuit offered the prediction that ‘the SJC likely will look to [its and other] federal courts’ interpretation of the ADEA and hold that an age discrimination claim cannot be grounded solely on a theory of disparate impact.’ It turned out that the First Circuit was wrong in its fundamental premise…As the Massachusetts Appeals Court has since followed Smith’s lead (citations omitted), I have no reason to believe that the SJC would do differently.” Id. at 13.
This case will now proceed to a jury trial.
Congratulations to Dr. Seifaee and Mr. LeBlanc for this excellent result.