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Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc.

United States Supreme Court
530 U.S. 133 (2000)

Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc.


Roger Reeves (plaintiff), a 57-year-old, brought suit against his former employer, Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc. (Sanderson) (defendant) under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), alleging that his discharge from Sanderson was impermissibly based on his age. Sanderson claimed that Reeves was terminated because he was responsible for numerous timekeeping errors and misrepresentations relating to the department he oversaw. At trial, Reeves presented evidence that Sanderson’s proffered reason for his termination was pretextual. For example, there was testimony that Reeves’s supervisor, Powe Chesnut, said that Reeves was “so old he must have come over on the Mayflower." Additionally, there was testimony that Chesnut treated Reeves the way one would treat a child who had misbehaved and that this was different from how Chesnut treated younger employees. Reeves also presented evidence that he properly maintained attendance and timekeeping records for the employees in his department. During the trial, Sanderson made two motions for judgment as a matter of law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50, both of which were denied. The jury found in favor of Reeves, and Sanderson made a third motion for judgment as a matter of law, which was denied. The court of appeals reversed and overturned the jury's verdict, holding that Reeves had not presented enough evidence to sustain the jury’s verdict of intentional discrimination. The court of appeals found that although Reeves may have shown that Sanderson’s reason for his termination was pretextual, he had failed to show the connection between his termination and Sanderson’s discrimination. Reeves appealed, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (O’Connor, J.)

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