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Job Reallocation of Washington DOC Employee Deemed Age Neutral

Washington State’s Court of Appeals, Division I, has affirmed a trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Department of Corrections (DOC) in a lawsuit alleging employee age discrimination.

Nineteen-year DOC veteran Mary Mckee contended her reassignment to a lower position as part of a major consolidation of the department was the result of age discrimination. The Appeals Court found she had stated a prima facie case. As she was 56, she fell within the statutorily-protected age range. She was performing satisfactorily when she was reallocated from an Administrative Assistant (AA) 4 to an AA-2. Her “reallocation two steps downward to a position with significantly fewer responsibilities and significantly less status can qualify as an adverse employment action,” the Court found. Finally, for the purposes of summary judgment, the person who replaced Mckee was 13 years her junior, which qualified as “substantially younger.”

However, the Court held that the DOC had provided a nondiscriminatory reason for the job change, based upon an audit which showed Mckee was doing AA-2 work; also, the DOC stated it was downsizing from two AA-4 positions to one AA-4, making it appropriate to reallocate McKee. The appellate court ruled that Mckee “could not show that the reason had no basis in fact, was not really a motivating factor for the decision, lacked a temporal connection to the decision, or was not a motivating factor in employment decisions for other employees.”

The Court of Appeals found there was no viable question of fact, because there was no evidence to rebut the accuracy or believability of the DOC’s nondiscriminatory explanation. The trial court’s order was affirmed. See: Mckee v. Lehman, 137 Wash.App. 1017, (Wash.App. Div. 1, 2007); 2007 WL 512542.

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Related legal case

Mckee v. Lehman