Fired lab worker loses discrimination appeal

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed summary judgment for an Indiana laboratory after finding a former employee failed to prove his employment termination was based on his age and his filing of two claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

When Steven Lauth began working at Covance Central Laboratories Inc. in 2006 at the age of 54, his supervisor, Donald Snyder, initially gave him mid- and end-of-the year reviews that rated Lauth as meeting expectations, but also noted his need to improve his communication style when working with his staff. Additionally, Snyder noted that Lauth could be unreceptive to help or suggestions.

Lauth’s performance reviews improved to exceeding expectations by 2010, yet Snyder still expressed concerns about how other employees perceived Lauth’s tendency to be “strong willed and an independent thinker.”

In his mid-year 2011 review of Lauth, Snyder wrote Lauth’s “‘my way’ approach is no longer acceptable to me.” Shortly after the review was issued, Snyder asked Lauth during a meeting when he planned to retire.

Then in August 2011, Lauth submitted a complaint about his co-worker, Aaron Ellsworth, claiming he bullied and intimidated Lauth and other employees. However, the complaint also said Ellsworth’s actions did not relate to unlawful harassment on the basis of race, religion, age, or the like.

Covance completed an investigation into the complaint and chose to place Ellsworth on a Performance Improvement Plan. Lauth, however, filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming he was discriminated against because of his age.

Specifically, Lauth referenced Snyder’s inquiry as to when he was going to retire, and also alleged he was retaliated against from making complaints about Ellsworth. The EEOC dismissed Lauth’s claim, and the deadline to file suit passed without action.

Snyder was eventually replaced by Christine Walters, and Imelda Marsh, who had worked alongside Snyder, witnessed Lauth behaving insubordinately toward Walters. Marsh issued a written warning and informed Lauth that further incidents could result in his termination.

Lauth was then placed on a Performance Improvement Plan, and he filed a second, similar EEOC charge. However, in October 2012, Walters received complaints from four of Lauth’s employees about his demeanor, leading to his termination.

Lauth filed the instant suit against Covance based on his second EEOC charge, alleging age discrimination and retaliation. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana granted summary judgment to Covance on both claims, so Lauth appealed in Steven A. Lauth v. Covance, Inc., 16-2939.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the grant of summary judgment Thursday, with Judge William Bauer writing that “Lauth does not cite any evidence that would allow for a reasonable inference that Covance did not have honest concerns about his communication style and behavior.” Similarly, Lauth failed to point to evidence that his termination was linked to the filing of his EEOC claims, Bauer said.

“(Lauth’s) speculation is insufficient to raise a question of fact, particularly in light of…Covance’s consistent, longstanding and progressive concerns about his behavior,” the judge wrote.

Further, the 7th Circuit also affirmed the entry of a bill of costs in favor of Covance.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: Here are the two research papers: 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.