Covance Boss Fired for Bad Behavior, Not Age, Court Affirms

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By Jay-Anne B. Casuga

Covance Inc. didn’t discriminate against an older supervisor who was fired because of his alleged argumentative and insubordinate demeanor, a federal appeals court ruled ( Lauth v. Covance, Inc. , 2017 BL 241670, 7th Cir., No. 16-2939, 7/13/17 ).

The case is an example of an employee’s federal discrimination claim failing because the employer’s reasons for firing him were not adequately challenged.

Here, Steven Lauth offered only his own arguments that concerns about his purported problematic and condescending communication style with managers, peers, and subordinates had no basis, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit said July 13. That belief isn’t enough to counter the pharmaceutical testing company’s performance concerns about Lauth, which were raised repeatedly over six years, the court said.

Lauth also didn’t identify younger supervisors who received more lenient discipline despite similar behavior, the court said. It upheld the dismissal of Lauth’s Age Discrimination in Employment Act bias claim against Covance. Lauth lost an ADEA retaliation claim for similar reasons.

Judge William J. Bauer wrote the opinion, joined by Judges Richard Posner and Diane S. Sykes.

Kevin W. Betz and Sandra L. Blevins of Betz + Blevins in Indianapolis represented Lauth. Alan L. McLaughlin of Littler Mendelson in Indianapolis represented Covance.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga in Washington at jcasuga@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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