Markley v. U.S. Bank, No. 21-1240 (10th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
U.S. Bank National Association (“U.S. Bank”) employed Darren Markley as Vice President and Managing Director of Private Wealth Management at its Denver, Colorado location. Markley managed a team of wealth managers and private bankers, including Bob Provencher and Dave Crittendon, when issues arose in mid-2017. In violation of U.S. Bank policy, Markey provided Provencher a personal loan. Markley allegedly prevented Crittendon from “sandbagging” an investment. And members of Markley’s team, including Crittendon, accused Markley of giving Provencher commission credits for sales on which Provencher did not participate and had not met the clients. After an investigation, a disciplinary committee unanimously voted to terminate Markley’s employment. At no time during the investigation did Markley suggest the allegations against him were motivated by his age, but over a year later, Markley filed suit advancing a claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) and a wrongful discharge claim under Colorado law. U.S. Bank moved for summary judgment. As to the ADEA claim at issue in this appeal, the district court concluded Markley did not sustain his burden of producing evidence capable of establishing that U.S. Bank’s reason for terminating his employment was pretext for age discrimination. On appeal, Markley contended U.S. Bank conducted a “sham” investigation, and this established pretext. For two reasons, the Tenth Circuit rejected Markley’s assertion: (1) while an imperfect investigation may help support an inference of pretext, there must be some other indicator of protected-class-based discrimination for investigatory flaws to be capable of establishing pretext; and (2) even if deficiencies in an investigation alone could support a finding of pretext, Markley’s criticisms of the investigation were unpersuasive and insufficient to permit a reasonable jury to find U.S. Bank’s reasons for termination pretextual. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment.