Magazine article HRMagazine

Reduction in Force Tainted by Willful Age Discrimination

Magazine article HRMagazine

Reduction in Force Tainted by Willful Age Discrimination

Article excerpt

Miller v. Raytheon Co., 5th Cir., No . 11-10586 (May 2, 2013).

An employer that purported to follow facially neutral layoff procedures termi- nated an employee because of his age, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, upholding a jury finding of a will- ful violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Richard Miller worked for Raytheon Co. or its predecessor for almost three decades in a variety of roles, primarily in supply chain management. In 2006, Miller was moved to special projects, where he reported to Robert Lyells. Miller initially performed well in his new position. After failing to meet some deadlines, however, he received a "needs improvement" rating on his 2007 mid- year review.

Raytheon initiated a reduction in force (RIF) in early 2008. The com- pany's policy dictated that Lyells evalu- ate his employees, subdivide them into "decisional units," rank them based on a four-factor analysis and develop a list of employees to recommend for reduc- tion. Lyells placed the then 53-year-old Miller in a decisional unit with four other employees (ages 34,49,54 and 55) to be considered for termination. A 46-year-o Id woman who worked in the same organization as Miller and had similar job responsibilities was placed in a decisional unit that was not considered for the RIF.

Lyells recommended that Miller be included in the layoff after determining that his job function was nonessential and that other employees could absorb his duties. Although Miller was purport- edly targeted for the RIF because of a budgetary shortfall, at that time his job was not charged to Lyells' budget. The only employee in Miller's decisional unit not recommended for termination was the 34-year-o Id, to whom Lyells offered retraining.

Because Miller had more than 20 years of service, Raytheon's human resources director and Lyells searched for job opportunities for Miller. Lyells contacted colleagues in other groups at Raytheon to determine whether there were any positions that fit Miller's skills, but he was told there were none. The com- pany terminated Mill- er's employment on March 13,2008.

Miller then met with HR and com- plained that he would be unable to get another job at Raytheon because of his "needs improvement" rating. …

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