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Horvitz & Levy is a solutions-based firm focused on appellate success. We are distinguished by our commitment to responsive service and on-going innovation in the areas of civil appellate litigation, amicus curiae support, and trial strategy consultation.

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January 20, 2023

Opara v. Yellen

Plaintiff sued for wrongful termination of employment, alleging age and national origin discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant on the grounds that plaintiff (1) failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, and (2) failed to show that the defendant’s proffered reasons for her termination were pretextual. Plaintiff appealed.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Noting that very little direct evidence is necessary for plaintiff to make a prima facie showing of discrimination, the court first held that plaintiff made a sufficient prima facie showing by alleging that an official involved in proceedings relating to her termination had previously made disparaging age-related comments.

The court next held that the defendant met its burden to provide a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating plaintiff by demonstrating that the acts plaintiff pointed to as discriminatory—her proposed removal and reassignment, and her eventual termination—were consistent with the defendant’s internal guidelines.

Finally, the court determined that plaintiff failed to show the defendant’s proffered reasons for terminating plaintiff were pretextual. The court concluded that, although very little evidence is necessary to raise a genuine issue of fact regarding an employer’s motive, plaintiff’s uncorroborated and self-serving allegation about an official’s comments regarding age was not enough to create an issue as to pretext.