Intel Employee Largely Prevails at Summary Judgment in Workplace Discrimination Case

Judge Michael H. Simon authored a 43-page opinion issued on Thursday concerning a former Intel Inc. employee’s allegations of discrimination under federal and state law. The District of Oregon allowed the plaintiff’s age and national origin discrimination and retaliation claims to proceed, but denied his claim that Intel employed a neutral policy that had a disparate impact on older employees.

The plaintiff’s employment began in 1984 when he was hired as a contractor then, 27 years later, a full-time employee with Intel. Problems arose under the direction of his first supervisor who allegedly gave the plaintiff a low performance rating and a restricted stock award in 2012. The plaintiff pointed to discriminatory remarks, which he said were part of a discriminatory animus towards the plaintiff due to his 59 years of age and Jewish identity. Secondarily, the plaintiff alleged that the low performance rating and stock award influenced the decision making process leading to his termination in 2015.

After receipt of his poor performance review and after the supervisor allegedly made derogatory remarks, the plaintiff asked to be transferred. The matter was elevated within the company, ultimately resulting in an investigation and transfer to another supervisor.

Despite a “successful” subsequent performance review, the plaintiff still received a restricted stock bonus subsequently, and was laid off in 2015 as part of a larger wave of Intel retrenchment, the opinion said. The letter notifying him of his termination explained the plaintiff had qualified for Intel’s layoff criteria because he had received a restricted stock bonus previously and a performance review of “Improvement Required” or “Below Expectations.”

In its review of the record, including depositions, declarations, and documentary evidence, Judge Simon held that the plaintiff pleaded claims for disparate treatment age discrimination under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and Oregon’s anti-discrimination law as well as for retaliation.

The court upheld these claims based on the plaintiff’s “cat’s paw” theory, alleging that the original supervisor’s purported discriminatory animus may have influenced subsequent performance reviews and stock awards as well as Intel’s ultimate decision to lay him off. The court said there were outstanding questions of fact as to exactly why the company parted ways with him, which the jury will now answer.

However, Intel prevailed on summary judgment as to the disparate impact claim. Judge Simon agreed that the plaintiff’s “inability to identify a particular practice causing a disparate impact on Intel’s employees, alongside his apparent reliance on statistical correlation alone, are fatal deficiencies in his disparate impact claim.”

Lastly, the court permitted the national origin discrimination claims to proceed, rejecting Intel’s contention that the alleged comments regarding Judaism and the plaintiff’s “accent” were not actionable statements about his national origin as well as the notion that they were “stray remarks.” Instead, Judge Simon ruled that the plaintiff provided sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment.

The former employee is represented by Lewallen Law LLC and Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP and Intel by Seyfarth Shaw LLP.