CHICAGO — A federal judge has rejected a former Catholic school teacher's age discrimination lawsuit, saying she failed to provide evidence suggesting she was fired because of her age.
The decision was handed down by U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman, in an opinion filed May 4. The judge he believed “no reasonable juror could find” that the teacher was let go because of her age.
Caroleann Morris, a former elementary school teacher at Most Blessed Trinity Academy, had filed suit against the Catholic Bishop of Chicago under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, claiming she was fired because of her age.
She was 55 years old at the time. Her replacement was 48.
Rachel Yarch Burke Warren McKay Serritella
The school, however, objected to the allegations and said she was fired because of her poor classroom performance, including an “inappropriate lesson on racism that caused an African-American student to cry,” according to the decision.
The Catholic Bishop of Chicago moved for summary judgment, which Feinerman granted.
The judge said that even though “an insubstantial age gap does not necessarily doom an age discrimination claim,” Morris would need to produce evidence to substantiate her claim that age was a significant factor in the decision to fire her.
However, Feinerman determined Morris had not produced such evidence. Additionally, he pointed to the fact that her replacement was only seven years younger than her.
“To survive summary judgment, then, a plaintiff must present evidence that, considered as a whole, would allow a reasonable juror to conclude that she was discriminated against due to a protected characteristic, suffering an adverse employment action as a result…” Feinerman wrote in the decision. “The fact that [school officials] hired a replacement so close in age to Morris strongly suggests that her age was not the… cause of her firing.”
The judge subsequently granted summary judgment in favor of the Catholic Bishop of Chicago.
Morris is represented by attorney Joel Handler, of Chicago.
The Catholic Bishop is represented by attorneys Rachel E. Yarch and Elizabeth M. Pall, of the firm of Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella P.C., of Chicago.