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Appellate court affirms ruling in retaliation lawsuit

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a northern Indiana judge’s decision granting summary judgment for a bank in a lawsuit filed by a former employee alleging retaliation in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

In Julie A. Smith v. Lafayette Bank & Trust Company, No. 10-3556, the 7th Circuit affirmed a ruling by U.S. District Judge Jon DeGuilio in the Northern District of Indiana involving a woman who worked at a Lafayette Bank & Trust Company for 26 years before being fired in June 2006.

Hired as a teller in 1980 and promoted to bank manager in 1995, Julie Smith received poor annual reviews in the two years before her firing based on complaints from employees and customers about negative attitude and unprofessional behavior. The bank’s executive vice president met with Smith on May 31, 2006, and gave her the option to resign or write a letter committing to improving her attitude and interacting better with employees. She chose the latter, acknowledging that she would be terminated if improvements weren’t made. Two weeks later, the bank received a complaint about cursing and inappropriate behavior to another employee, and Smith was fired. At the time of her termination, Smith was 44 years old.

Five months later, Smith filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. She dropped the age discrimination claim after the bank countersued her in state court for civil and criminal conversion regarding bank records, documents she allegedly stole, and replevin.

At the District level, DeGuilio later granted the bank’s motion for summary judgment on Smith’s ADEA retaliation claim and remanded the bank’s counterclaims to the state court for further proceedings. Smith appealed, arguing the District court erred in granting the summary judgment.

The appellate court determined that Smith failed to meet the standard required to survive summary judgment because she tried to use three prior general complaints as justification for her age discrimination or retaliation claim. Those don’t apply here, the appellate panel found.

Her EEOC complaint also doesn’t apply because Smith filed that claim in November 2006, five months after her termination. As a result, the court found Smith is unable to show the bank administrators who fired her were aware that she had ever filed a discrimination charge.

The panel affirms DeGuilio on all grounds. Chief Judge Richard Young in the Southern District of Indiana sat by designation on the three-judge panel and authored this opinion, along with Judges Illana Diamond Rovner and Ann C. Williams.

 

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