The Oakland Raiders saw a number of drastic changes occur when the team passed from late owner Al Davis to his son, Mark Davis. Among the big changes was the fact that football operations of the Oakland Raiders would no longer be run by a Davis. Rather, Mark brought in Reggie McKenzie, who in turn began to bring in his own guys.
As a result of the shift in power, many mainstays of the Al Davis years have departed the team. Some left on their own accord; others did not. Two people who were shown the door have filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the Raiders.
In such a suit, the plaintiffs, here Jon Kingdon and Bruce Kebric, must prove that they suffered an adverse employment action (being fired) and that action was taken due to their age. In California, the law only protects those who are over the age of 40 (this group of people is known as a protected class). The law was created in order to protect older members of the work force who were being fired in favor of younger, cheaper employees, as well as in an effort to avoid paying retirement or pension.
Once again, calling on my legal background, I can tell you first hand that employment discrimination cases are very difficult to prove. I have worked for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the Federal agency charged with enforcing discrimination laws in the workplace). I currently work on plaintiff side employment cases, including discrimination cases.
The reason these cases are so hard to prove is that you are trying to prove what is in someone’s mind. In this day and age, employers are familiar with discrimination laws, and few are stupid enough to outwardly express discriminatory intent. If an employer does intend to discriminate, they often try to cover their tracks by showing a legitimate business purpose for their action.
In the present case, Kingdon and Kebric do not appear to have a strong lawsuit. It is not uncommon that when there is a regime change, there is a large turnover in personnel. No one was surprised that McKenzie decided to bring in his own people. Not long after Kingdon and Kebric were let go, McKenzie brought in Shaun Herock as the head of scouting. Herock, whose father has ties to the Raiders, worked with McKenzie in Green Bay.
The fact that McKenzie brought in someone he was familiar with goes a long way towards showing the decision was based on legal ideas (bringing in his own guys) as opposed to illegal ideas (firing old fogies). In addition, one could easily argue that Kingdon and Kebric were just not very good at their jobs. While Al Davis takes much of the blame for the Raiders poor drafting in recent years, someone was whispering in his ear.
Finally, the biggest problem the two will have to overcome is the fact that Shaun Herock is over 40 years old. Since the law only distinguishes between two sets of age groups, those under 40 and those over 40, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to prove that Kingdon and Kebric were discriminated based on age when one of the people who replaced them falls within the same protected class as they do.
Defendants will almost always dismiss lawsuits against them as being meritless. But in this case, there is a very strong chance that they are correct and that this case will not go very far.