Age Not a Factor in News Anchor Layoffs

     FRESNO, Calif. (CN) — A former news anchor was unable to prove that she was laid off after 28 years on the job because of her age rather than a reduction in force by Nexstar Broadcasting, a federal judge ruled.
     U.S. District Judge Dale Drozd ruled Wednesday that Faith Sidlow did not provide sufficient evidence that age discrimination played a role in the television company’s decision to let her go, especially considering the fact that she was replaced by another employee in his mid-40s.
     Sidlow began working as a newsroom assistant for KSEE-24 in Fresno in 1985. She was promoted to reporter that year and eventually to news anchor, according to her original complaint.
     Nexstar laid her off in 2013, claiming it needed to reduce costs and increase profits. Sidlow was replaced with sports reporter George Takata, who was over 40 at the time.
     “While it is arguably possible for an employer to discriminate on the basis of age between various employees all over the age of 40, this argument is essentially a post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy: because the eventual replacement was somewhat younger than plaintiff Sidlow, she therefore must have been discriminated against on the basis of her age. Such evidence is insufficient to sustain a disparate treatment claim,” Drozd said in his 19-page opinion.
     Drozd added that the evidence makes it clear that Sidlow was laid off because she was highly compensated and only worked part-time.
     Drozd also found in favor of Nexstar regarding former creative director Richard Nitido’s claim that he, too, was laid off because of his age.
     Nitido said he was recruited away from Disney-owned KFSN, where he had worked for 26 years, to work for Nexstar at KSEE-24. The television company let him go a year later and replaced him with Matthew Damore, a younger and higher-paid employee.
     Although he worked in lower positions at KFSN, Nitido says he often filled the role of interim creative services director when the station was between directors and, therefore, had more years of total experience in the creative directing field than Damore.
     While this could form the basis for an age discrimination claim, evidence shows that Matt Rosenfeld, the general manager in charge of deciding which employees to let go, was unaware of Nitido’s previous experience in the creative director role at KFSN, the judge said.
     “Assuming arguendo Nitido in fact had more experience in that position than Damore, the undisputed evidence before the court on summary judgment establishes that Rosenfeld was unaware of Nitido’s alleged superior knowledge and experience,” Drozd said.
     Damore had served as creative services director for nine years with KSEE-24, while Nitido had only held the title for eight months, the judge pointed out.
     “Without any evidence from which a reasonable factfinder could conclude Rosenfeld was aware of Nitido’s supposedly superior qualifications, despite the lesser job titles of the positions he held, the court cannot conclude that a reasonable factfinder could draw a reasonable inference of age-related discrimination,” Drozd said.
     “Nexstar is pleased with the outcome,” the company’s attorney, Dylan Carp, said, declining further comment.
     The news anchors’ attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.

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