A federal judge threw out an age discrimination lawsuit against one of the largest Ford dealerships in the Washington area.
The court ruled that Ted Britt Ford of Fairfax, Va., had valid reasons to replace a 70-year-old inventory manager with a 40-year-old employee.
"We knew the facts were on our side," says M. Gardner Britt Jr., the dealership's president.
Federal law protects employees who are 40 years old and older against age discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Ted Britt Ford last June. It alleged the store fired the inventory manager, Mahlon Mueller, in 2003 because of his age.
The suit also said Mueller's successor, Allen Pinter, was less qualified because he had a history of disciplinary actions at the dealership.
The EEOC did not return calls.
The federal court in Alexandria, Va., ruled the dealership promoted Pinter as part of a broader restructuring. According to court documents, the dealership laid off seven other employees, all of them under 40, at the same time.
The court said Pinter was willing to work longer hours than Mueller, who worked part time. Pinter also had more experience then Mueller ordering new vehicles, the court said.
Ted Britt Ford's decision to replace Mueller was part of a legitimate effort to streamline operations and save money, the court concluded.
"EEOC can demonstrate that Ted Britt's decision to hire Pinter instead of Mueller might have been unwise, might have been an exercise of poor judgment, might have been unkind," U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III ruled. He added: "But that isn't enough."
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