O'Connor v. Consolidated Coin Caterers Corp.
517 U.S. 308 (1996)

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No. 95-354. Argued February 27, 1996-Decided April 1, 1996

At age 56, petitioner was fired by respondent corporation and replaced by a 40-year-old worker. He then filed this suit, alleging that his discharge violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). The District Court granted respondent's summary judgment motion, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that petitioner failed to make out a prima facie case of age discrimination under McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U. S. 792, because he failed to show that he was replaced by someone outside the age group protected by the ADEA.

Held: Assuming that Title VII's McDonnell Douglas framework is applicable to ADEA cases, there must be at least a logical connection between each element of the prima facie case and the illegal discrimination. Replacement by someone under 40 fails this requirement. Although the ADEA limits its protection to those who are 40 or older, it prohibits discrimination against those protected employees on the basis of age, not class membership. That one member of the protected class lost out to another member is irrelevant, so long as he lost out because of his age. The latter is more reliably indicated by the fact that his replacement was substantially younger than by the fact that his replacement was not a member of the protected class.

56 F.3d 542, reversed and remanded.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

George Daly argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Paul Alan Levy and Alan B. Morrison.

Paul R. Q. Wolfson argued the cause for the United States et al. as amici curiae urging reversal. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Days, Assistant Attorney General Patrick, Deputy Solicitor General Bender, C. Gregory Stewart, Gwendolyn Young Reams, Lorraine C. Davis, and Barbara L. Sloan.


James B. Spears, Jr., argued the cause for respondent.

With him on the brief were Jacob J. Modla and Robert

JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether a plaintiff alleging that he was discharged in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 81 Stat. 602, as amended, 29 U. S. C. § 621 et seq., must show that he was replaced by someone outside the age group protected by the ADEA to make out a prima facie case under the framework established by McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U. S. 792 (1973).

Petitioner James O'Connor was employed by respondent Consolidated Coin Caterers Corporation from 1978 until August 10, 1990, when, at age 56, he was fired. Claiming that he had been dismissed because of his age in violation of the ADEA, petitioner brought suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. After discovery, the District Court granted respondent's motion for summary judgment, 829 F. Supp. 155 (1993), and peti-

*Steven S. Zaleznick and Cathy Ventrell-Monsees filed a brief for the American Association of Retired Persons et al. as amici curiae urging reversal.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the State of Maryland et al. by J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Attorney General of Maryland, and Tarra DeShields-Minnis and Andrew H. Baida, Assistant Attorneys General, and by the Attorneys General for their respective States as follows: Winston Bryant of Arkansas, M. Jane Brady of Delaware, Frank J. Kelley of Michigan, Frankie Sue Del Papa of Nevada, Deborah T. Poritz of New Jersey, Mark Barnett of South Dakota, and W A. Drew Edmondson of Oklahoma; for the Chamber of Commerce of the United States by Marshall B. Babson, Stanley R. Strauss, Sue J. Henry, Stephen A. Bokat, Robin S. Conrad, and Mona C. Zeiberg; for the Equal Employment Advisory Council by Douglas S. McDowell; and for the New England Legal Foundation by Steven S. Ostrach and Cynthia L. Amara.

Jack L. Whitacre filed a brief for the National Retail Federation as amicus curiae.

Full Text of Opinion

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