Army granted summary judgment in civilian employee's age discrimination suit

By Charmaine Little | Nov 13, 2018

PHILADELPHIA - The U.S. Army was granted its motion for summary judgment in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Oct. 29 after a man accused the Pentagon of not giving him a promotion because of his age.

Reuben Wade, a civil engineer in the Philadelphia District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, sued Ryan McCarthy, the acting Secretary of the Department of the Army, when he was passed up for a promotion by a younger man. Wade was convinced that while he landed an interview, he wasn’t given the Operations and Maintenance Section Chief position because of his age. He then sued for age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. 

The Army filed its motion for summary judgment, stating Wade’s age had nothing to do with its decision. Instead, it maintains it went with another candidate because the other person was more qualified. The court concurred that no discrimination took place and granted the Army its motion for summary judgment.

The court pointed out that since the army broke down why it chose the other candidate -- the candidate had more relevant fieldwork and supervisory experience, a superior application package, performed better in the interview, was more knowledgeable and had more experience about construction contract administration, etc... -- the burden shifted to Wade to prove he was discriminated against because of his age.

While Wade said he was "way more qualified" compared to the person hired, he also said that candidate was pre-selected for the position before any interviews were given. He added the Army’s analysis of candidates was too subjective. Still, the court determined, “Wade has failed to demonstrate that the Army’s legitimate reasons for not selecting him were a pretext for age discrimination.”

When it comes to qualifications, Wade also said during his deposition that he hadn’t worked on any maintenance contracts for bridges but was aware that the other candidate had experience in that area. He also said he didn’t have experience in maintenance dredging and admitted he wasn’t an authorized COR, which the other applicant was.

Concerning Wade’s argument the Army pre-selected a candidate, he also failed to prove that had anything to do with his age. “Numerous counts have found that pre-selection, on its own, does not demonstrate pretext,” the court said. Wade also had conversations with the decision makers about their final choice. There was no comment of Wade’s age being a reason he wasn’t selected to fill the position. The interview panel also took in-depth knows that provide reasons why the other candidate was selected over Wade.

Ultimately, the court granted the Army its motion for summary judgment. Senior Judge Robert Kelly ruled on the case.

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