JOAN OPARA V. JANET YELLEN, No. 21-55953 (9th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff was terminated from her employment as a Revenue Officer at the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) for assessed Unauthorized Access of Taxpayer Data (“UNAX”) offenses. After unsuccessfully pursuing an internal Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) complaint, Plaintiff brought suit against the Treasury Secretary in the United States District Court for the Central District of California alleging that her termination was based on impermissible criteria of age and national origin in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, respectively. The district court granted summary judgment to the Treasury Secretary on the grounds that Plainitff: (1) failed to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination; and (2) failed to show that the IRS Management’s proffered reasons for terminating her were pretext for age or national origin discrimination.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel wrote that at step one of the legal framework for a discrimination action, the district court found that none of Plaintiff’s evidence established a prima facie case of age discrimination. The panel agreed with the district court that most of Plaintiff’s evidence comprised “circumstantial evidence”—her superior’s alleged exaggeration of her offenses, assignment of menial tasks, selection of draconian penalties. The panel held, however, that the record was not devoid of direct evidence of age discrimination. The panel was satisfied that the record taken as a whole supported Plaintiff’s prima facie case of age discrimination. The panel held that the Secretary’s proffered reasons for its action was sufficient.