10th Circuit affirms Windstream’s win in sex and age discrimination case

The Tenth Circuit has affirmed a summary judgment that Windstream Communications obtained against the plaintiff, Susan Bennett, who alleged that the company had engaged in sex and age discrimination. See Bennett v. Windstream Communications, Inc. 

One wonders why this case was brought at all. As Judge Kelly’s opinion explains, Ms. Bennett utterly failed to make out a prima facie case of sex or age discrimination. From the facts, Ms. Bennett’s termination was pretty clearly caused by her failure to respect her employer’s rules — e.g. she often arrived at work two hours late. Disciplining an employee for failing to come to work on time hardly demonstrates any discriminatory animus.

Other allegedly discriminatory acts were also anything but. For example, when Ms. Bennett went on leave for a short-term disability, Windstream retrieved the company-owned vehicle and tools that Ms. Bennett had been using, so that other employees could use them. Again, it’s hard to see what’s wrong with that.

The lesson here seems obvious —  to prove a case of discrimination, it’s not enough to show that your employer has done things you don’t like; you’ve got to prove that they took those actions because of some prohibited discriminatory animus.

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