Plaintiff had joined employer in 1991 at age 43 as a stevedore.?? ?He eventually rose to a management position. In 2000 the Company hired a 25-year old as its operations manager.? ?In 2005, the operations manager began referring to the plaintiff as ?an old goat? and claiming he was ?too old to stay on the? job.??? ?The? operations ?manager ?repeatedly tried to shift plaintiff?s physically demanding job duties to a younger employee.?? The comments continued into 2007.
In December 2007 a vessel owned by one of the employer?s customers caught fire.?? The plaintiff was ?off-duty? at ?the ?time.?? ?Another ?employee went to the plaintiff?s house to tell him about the fire.?? ?Plaintiff appeared intoxicated to the employee.?? The plaintiff was the only manager on-site and took charge of the accident scene.
At the fire scene, the plaintiff got into a dispute with police and fire officials over their handling of the situation.? ?He apparently spit at a co- worker who tried to restrain him from getting into an altercation with firefighters and called her a ?bitch? and a ?dyke.? ?The plaintiff then left the scene.
The? operations ?manager? fired ?plaintiff? three weeks later without even interviewing him. ?The operations manager originally said the reason for his termination was that the plaintiff had tried to cut the lines of the burning vessel. ?Two weeks later he received a letter giving as the reasons for his termination his disruptive behavior the night of the fire, being intoxicated, and long-time poor treatment of employees.
The plaintiff filed a claim for age discrimination under the WLAD.?? The Superior Court granted summary judgment to the employer but Division I reversed.? ?Judge Law held that a reasonable jury could find that the employer?s explanation was a pretext for discrimination.
Firstly,? ?the?? employer?? had? ?given? ?inconsistent reasons for the termination.?? The appellate court also relied on the operations manager?s history of ageist comments. ?The court also said a jury could find that the plaintiff acted reasonably in dealing with the fire given the company?s failure to have other senior managers on site in violation of its own policies.? ?There was also no evidence to support the employer?s claim that the plaintiff had a history of mistreating other employees.? ?His personnel ?file ?contained ?only? one ?written reprimand.
Rice v. Offshore Systems, Inc., — Wn. App. —, 272 P.3d 865 (Div. 1 1/17/12; pub. 3/19/12)