Plaintiff Kalloo, age 61, worked for New York New Jersey Rail, LLC (NYNJR) for some 13 years as a train engineer. He got into a physical altercation with a coworker who was only 23 years old. Witnesses seemed to corroborate that Kalloo was the instigator. Kalloo was terminated for cause for allegedly violating work safety rules. After Kalloo was fired his engineering duties were assigned to an existing NYNJR employee with engineer experience who was also much younger than him. Kalloo filed a lawsuit alleging he was wrongfully discharged because of his age in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination because he was replaced by a much younger coworker. The trial court granted summary judgment to NYNJR finding as a matter of law that there were legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for Kalloo’s firing. Kalloo appealed.
In affirming the trial court below, the Appellate Division first reviewed the elements necessary for a plaintiff to successfully assert a prima facie claim of age discrimination. The appellate court stated that a plaintiff must show that: (1) [he] was a member of a protected group; (2) [his] job performance met the ’employer’s legitimate expectations’; (3) [he] was terminated; and (4) the employer replaced, or sought to replace, [him].” Nini v. Mercer Cnty. Cmty. Coll., 406 N.J. Super. 547, 554 (App. Div. 2009) (quoting Zive, 182 N.J. at 450). Satisfaction of the fourth element “require[s] a showing that the plaintiff was replaced with ‘a candidate sufficiently younger to permit an inference of age discrimination.'” Bergen Com. Bank v. Sisler, 157 N.J. 188, 213, (1999) (quoting Kelly v. Bally’s Grand, Inc., 285 N.J. Super. 422, 429, (App. Div. 1995)). The court went onto to state that the plaintiff must also show that age played a role in the decision-making process and that it had a determinative influence on the outcome of that process.” Garnes v. Passaic Cnty., 437 N.J. Super. 520, 530 (App. Div. 2014) quoting Bergen Com. Bank, 157 N.J. at 207. “Although the discrimination must be intentional, an employee may attempt to prove employment discrimination by using either direct or circumstantial evidence.” Ibid. (quoting Bergen Com. Bank, 157 N.J. at 208). Upon plaintiff’s demonstration of a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. Bergen Com. Bank, 157 N.J. at 209-10. If a defendant shows a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the adverse action, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to show the employer’s proffered reasons were pretextual. Id. at 210-11.
In siding with the NYNJR, the appellate court found Kalloo failed to meet the second prong of the LAD prima facie case because plaintiff failed to meet defendant’s expectations through his job performance, based on the physical altercation, threats and hostile working environment corroborated by co-workers. Plaintiff also failed to demonstrate that he was replaced by a younger employee as required under the fourth prong. Rather, his duties were reassigned to an existing employee who was already trained as an engineer. *11. The court also concluded that even had Kalloo proved a prima facie case of age discrimination, his claims still fell short due to lack of proof that NYNJR’s nondiscriminatory reason for firing Kalloo, i.e., fighting, was pretextual. In doing so, the court stated, “To prove pretext, a plaintiff may not simply show that the employer’s reason was false but must also demonstrate that the employer was motivated by discriminatory intent.” Zive, 182 N.J. at 449 (citing Viscik, 173 N.J. at 14). The plaintiff must persuade the court “he was subjected to intentional discrimination.” Ibid. (citing Baker v. Nat’l State Bank, 312 N.J. Super. 268, 287, (App. Div. 1998)). *12. No pretext was found because Kalloo failed to offer proof to the court supporting his contention of discriminatory intent nor did he create a genuine dispute of fact as to the physical altercation he had with a coworker. *13.
If you believe you are being treated in a hostile manner or have been denied a raise, promotion or fired because of your age, immediately call the attorneys at Mashel Law (732) 536-6161 or fill out the contact form on this page for help. Mashel Law, located in Morganville, New Jersey, is dedicated to protecting the rights of employees.