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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ind. Decisions - One Indiana decision today from 7th Circuit

In Bruce Barton v. Zimmer, Inc. (ND Ind., Springmann), an 18-page opinion, Judge Sykes writes:

Bruce Barton was employed in the sales-training department at Zimmer, Inc., an Indianabased manufacturer of orthopedic devices. In May 2004 Zimmer assigned Andy Richardson to supervise the department. During the course of the next year, Richardson removed many of Barton’s primary job duties because he thought Barton, age 57, was too old. Barton lodged an age-discrimination complaint with Richard Abel, Zimmer’s Vice President of Human Resources, and also with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Abel investigated the claim and eventually fired Richardson.

In the meantime, however, Barton went on medical leave, as authorized by the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq. He remained on leave until shortly before Richardson was fired. Sherri Milton became the department’s new supervisor, and she assigned Barton to revamp one of Zimmer’s training classes. The pressure of this assignment proved too much for Barton. He suffered a psychological breakdown, exhausted his disability leave, and retired. He then sued Zimmer for discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq., and for interference with his right to reinstatement under the FMLA. The district court granted summary judgment for Zimmer.

We affirm. Barton’s ADEA claims fail for lack of causation and any available remedy. Although the evidence, viewed in Barton’s favor, establishes that Richardson discriminated against him because of his age, the ADEA provides no remedy because the discrimination did not cause any loss and was not linked to the disability that later precipitated Barton’s early retirement. Moreover, there is no evidence that either Abel or Milton retaliated against Barton for complaining about Richardson’s discrimination. Finally, Barton has no claim under the FMLA because when he returned to work after his medical leave, the company assigned him equivalent duties without regard to his medical leave.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 18, 2011 11:19 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions