You’re “Not That Pretty,” Part 2 – You’re Old, Too

| William A. Schreiner, Jr.

In the previous part, we looked at Elke Tober-Purze’s lawsuit against her employer, the City of Evanston.  The federal court hearing the case ruled in Tober-Purze’s favor on Evanston’s motion to dismiss her claim that it had discriminated against her by paying her male colleagues more and ultimately terminating her from her job as an assistant city attorney. 

In the same opinion, the court also denied Evanston’s motion to dismiss Tober-Purze’s claim for age discrimination based on federal law.  That law – the Age Discrimination in Employment Act – requires an aggrieved employee to demonstrate that he or she: 1) is over forty; 2) otherwise meets the employer’s expectations; 3) suffered an adverse employment action – such as being terminated or passed over for promotion; and 4) was treated less favorably than others who are not over forty.  

Tober-Purze’s complaint, the court held, clearly alleged facts that – if proven – could meet this standard.  She is over forty, and had never been disciplined – so she met the city’s expectations.  She was terminated (along with other female lawyers over forty) and denied vacation and sick pay she alleges she was due, and at the same time younger lawyers were brought in to replace her and her over-age-forty colleagues.

The next step for Evanston and Tober-Purze now is to move forward through discovery.  Based on what Evanston learns, it may decide to take another shot at ending the case in its favor through a motion for summary judgment.  Or the parties will settle.  If all else fails, they’ll proceed to a trial. 

Either way, Evanston and its taxpayers will incur legal bills they wouldn’t otherwise have had, if – assuming Tober-Purze’s allegations are true – some of the city’s attorneys had followed the city’s policies and treated their female employees with basic respect.  And those bills – for discovery, motion practice, and trial preparation, let alone trial and any settlement – won’t be pretty.