attorney's fees and expenses. 29 U.S.C. § 626(b). There is no opposition from the defendant.
Daka, Inc. has likewise filed post trial motions. It seeks judgment in its favor as a matter of law pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a), or in the alternative, a new trial pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 59.
Oral argument was held in Utica, New York, on November 9, 1995. The court reserved decision. Since the results of the defendant's motions will have implications on the plaintiff's motions, defendant's motions will be addressed first.
The Supreme Court has determined that ADEA cases will be subject to and follow the law of Title VII cases. Lorillard v. Pons, 434 U.S. 575, 584, 98 S. Ct. 866, 55 L. Ed. 2d 40 (1978). Thus, the starting point in determining the outcome of an ADEA case is - as with Title VII cases - the seminal case of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973).
There the Supreme Court set out a three step process, allocating burdens of production and persuasion.
The first of these steps - that of proving a prima facie case - belongs to the plaintiff. One of the methods in which plaintiff may satisfy his burden is by coming forth with proof of the following: "(i) that he belongs to a [protected class]; (ii) that he applied and was qualified for a job for which the employer was seeking applicants; (iii) that, despite his qualifications, he was rejected; and (iv) that, after his rejection, the position remained open and the employer continued to seek applicants from persons of complainant's qualifications." McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802.
Defendant's motions hinge upon whether the plaintiff has fulfilled his burden with regard to the second of these four McDonnell Douglas elements.
A. Establishment of a Prima Facie Case.
Proving a prima facie case requires only a de minimis showing that there exists a triable issue of fact, Quaratino v. Tiffany & Co., 71 F.3d 58, 1995 U.S. App. LEXIS 32635, *19, 1995 WL 686653, at *7-8 (2d Cir. 1995) ("plaintiff's burden of proof in a . . . discrimination action is de minimis at the prima facie stage, . . ."); Dister v. Continental Group, Inc., 859 F.2d 1108, 1114 (2d Cir. 1988), so that the court may focus its attention on "the ultimate question of discrimination vel non." United States Postal Serv. Bd. of Governors v. Aikens, 460 U.S. 711, 714, 75 L. Ed. 2d 403, 103 S. Ct. 1478 (1983).
Defendant argues that the plaintiff has failed to show even a de minimis amount of evidence supporting his qualification for the job. In support of this argument, defendant alleges that the proper standard to be used in determining whether the "qualified" element of a prima facie case has been established is "whether the employee was doing the job well enough to 'meet his employer's [the Defendant's] legitimate expectations.'" Charrette v. S.M. Flickinger Co., 806 F. Supp. 1045, 1056 (N.D.N.Y. 1992) (quoting Meiri v. Dacon, 759 F.2d 989, 995 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 829, 88 L. Ed. 2d 74, 106 S. Ct. 91 (1985)); see also Huhn v. Koehring Co., 718 F.2d 239, 244 (7th Cir. 1983). However, these cases, and the line of cases from which they draw support, lack the clarity, specificity, and foundation to establish this view as the present state of the Second Circuit's definition of prima facie "qualified," in discriminatory discharge cases as will be discussed infra.
On the other hand, at least four Second Circuit cases have specifically addressed the issue since the Supreme Court rendered its decision in McDonnell Douglas enumerating the elements of a prima facie case. The first of these was the case of Powell v. Syracuse Univ., 580 F.2d 1150 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 984, 58 L. Ed. 2d 656, 99 S. Ct. 576 (1978). Released five years after McDonnell Douglas, it examined whether the plaintiff, a black female part-time visiting assistant professor with the Architecture Department at Syracuse University was terminated based upon race or sex. Id. at 1151. The district court dismissed the action, finding that plaintiff had failed to establish two items of the McDonnell Douglas prima facie case: that she was "qualified" to teach on the faculty, and that other persons with similar qualifications were subsequently hired. Id. at 1155.
The Second Circuit directly addressed the issue with which we now deal. The Court stated:
We believe that the trial court applied an erroneous legal standard in reaching these conclusions. . . .