1. Why did the employer tell Rhodes that he was

1. Why did the employer tell Rhodes that he was being terminated because of a RIF, and why did supervisor Snyder place a memo in Rhodes’s file about lacking expertise in downhole operations?
2. Evaluate the statement attributed to Jack Givens, the person who directed that Rhodes be fired, that “I could hire two young salesmen for what some of the older salesmen are costing.”
3. Was the jury entitled to find that the reasons given by the employer for Rhodes’s discharge were pretexts for age discrimination?

[Calvin Rhodes began his employment with Dresser Industries in 1955 as a salesman to the oil industry. In the throes of a severe economic downturn, Rhodes took a job selling oil field equipment at another Dresser company that became Guiberson Oil. After seven months, he was discharged, being told that it was a reduction in force and that he would be eligible for rehiring. At that time, he was 56 years of age. Within two months, Guiberson Oil hired a 42-year-old salesperson to do the same job. Rhodes sued Guiberson Oil for violating the ADEA. A jury found for the plaintiff, but a divided panel of the court of appeals rendered judgment for the employer. The matter was reheard en banc before the court of appeals.]
Lee Snyder terminated Rhodes on October 31, 1986. Mr. Snyder told Rhodes he was part of a reduction in force (RIF) because of adverse economic conditions that persisted in the oilfield. Snyder told Rhodes, however that Guiberson would consider him for reemployment. Rhodes' personnel file reflected this same reason for the discharge. It was uncontradicted that Rhodes' position remained unfilled for only 6 weeks and that Guiberson knew at the time of termination or soon after that Rhodes would be replaced….
Lee Snyder, Rhodes' supervisor, testified via deposition that more than one salesman was clearly needed for the territory. Jack Givens, who had been Snyder's supervisor, testified that he told Snyder to replace Rhodes. Givens also testified that the business required more than one salesman, and that Rick Attaway had been hired to replace Rhodes. James Sewell, Snyder's other supervisor, testified that Rhodes was told that his position was being eliminated and that this statement was not true. The evidence supports a finding that Guiberson did not tell Rhodes the truth about why it was discharging him.
Guiberson Oil's defense at trial was not that Rhodes was RIF'd, but that he was discharged because of his poor work performance. Here too, Rhodes presented evidence to counter Guiberson's assertion….
Guiberson officials' testimony… provided support for Rhodes' contention that Guiberson's "productivity"
justification of his termination was a pretext for age discrimination. Lee Snyder testified that the memo placed in Rhodes' file explaining that Rhodes lacked technical expertise in downhole operations was substantially true but noted that it was also a "CYA …
(cover your _ss)" letter. Snyder testified that Rhodes was a good salesman with strong customer contacts and noted that Jack Givens-Snyder's boss who instructed Snyder to fire Rhodes-once said that he could hire two young salesmen for what some of the older salesmen were costing. Snyder quickly backed away from this statement and said that Givens had said he could hire two new salesmen for what some of the others were costing him. Givens said he was not aware of telling Snyder this. He also admitted that he had never talked to any of Rhodes' customers about Rhodes' performance as a salesman.
James Sewell, Snyder's other supervisor, testified that he had been very impressed with Rhodes' sales plans and that technical ability was not necessary to sell the product. He also testified that Rhodes had a poor customer base, but admitted that he did not know who Rhodes' customers were, had not talked to any of Rhodes' customers, and had no documentation to support his testimony about Rhodes' poor performance.
Lloyd Allen, the other salesman in the New Orleans office with whom Rhodes was compared, at first testified that his sales were much higher than Rhodes' but clarified on cross-examination that Rhodes' sales during the period in question nearly matched his own. Allen also admitted that the records supporting his testimony may have been incomplete, that Rhodes may have made another sale for which Allen had not credited him, and that another salesman may have been responsible for one of the sales Allen credited to himself….
Based on this evidence, the jury was entitled to find that the reasons given for Rhodes' discharge were pretexts for age discrimination. The jury was entitled to find that Guiberson's state[d] reason for discharging Rhodes-RIF-was false. Additionally, the reason for discharge that Guiberson Oil proffered in court to meet Rhodes' prima facie case was countered with evidence from which the jury could have found that Rhodes was an excellent salesman who met Guiberson Oil's legitimate productivity expectations. Viewing this evidence in the light most favorable to Rhodes, a reasonable jury could have found that Guiberson Oil discriminated against Rhodes on the basis of his age.

After considering all of the evidence in the record under the standard set forth in Boeing Co. v. Shipman, we are convinced that the district court properly accepted the jury's verdict on liability and willfulness. Guiberson Oil's motion for JNOV was properly denied….
[Judgment affirmed.]


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