Ohio Court Rules Employee Who Assumed Some of Plaintiff’s Duties Not a “Replacement” Under Ohio Age Discrimination Law

Claims of age discrimination under Ohio law are governed by the so-called Coryell test, under which a plaintiff must prove that 1) he or she was old enough to be a member of the statutorily protected class, 2) he or she was discharged, 3) he or she was qualified for the position, and 4) he or she was replaced by, or his or her discharge permitted the retention of, a substantially younger person.  Coryell v. Bank One Trust Co., N.A., 101 Ohio St.3d 175 (Ohio 2004).  The Fifth District Court of Appeals in Stark County recently affirmed a trial court’s grant of summary judgment to an employer who argued that a fired employee was not actually “replaced” simply because some of his duties had been assumed by a younger employee.

The plaintiff, a fifty-five-year-old former general manager of a retail tire store chain, sued the company after it let him go from his position during the 2009 recession.  The company assigned several, but not all, of his duties to the company’s thirty-three-year-old comptroller instead.  In ruling that this shifting of duties did not make the comptroller the general manager’s “replacement,” the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that his employer’s redistributing his “most important and primary job duties” was sufficient to fulfill Coryell’s fourth element.  The court, quoting earlier case law, held that “[a] person is not replaced when another employee is assigned to perform the plaintiff’s duties in addition to other duties . . . .  A person is replaced only when another employee is hired or reassigned to perform the plaintiff’s duties.”

The case, Davidson v. Ziegler Tire & Supply Co., No. 2012 CA 00165, (Ohio Ct. App. 5th Dist. June 24, 2013), can be found here.

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