Josey v. John R. Hollingsworth Corp., 996 F.2d 632, 638 (3d Cir. 1993).
Here, the parties dispute all three prongs of the discrimination claim analysis.
1. Prima Facie Case
The Court of Appeals has repeatedly articulated that the fourth element of the prima facie test requires that the employee replacing the fired employee be "sufficiently younger." Lawrence, 98 F.3d at 66; Sempier, 45 F.3d at 728; Gray v. York Newspapers, Inc., 957 F.2d 1070, 1078 (3d Cir. 1992); Chipolli v. Spencer Gifts, Inc., 814 F.2d 893, 897 (3d Cir.) (en banc), cert. dismissed, 483 U.S. 1052, 97 L. Ed. 2d 815, 108 S. Ct. 26 (1987); Maxfield v. Sinclair Int'l, 766 F.2d 788, 793 (3d Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1057, 88 L. Ed. 2d 773, 106 S. Ct. 796 (1986). Although no uniform rule exists, it is generally accepted that when the difference in age between the fired employee and his or her replacement is fewer than five or six years, the replacement is not considered "sufficiently younger," and thus no prima facie case is made. See Gray, 957 F.2d at 1087 (one year difference is not sufficiently younger); Lazzaro v. Franklin Mint Co., 840 F. Supp. 339, 343 (E.D. Pa. 1993) ("Clearly, plaintiff was not replaced by a sufficiently younger person in this case given that [replacement] was only one year younger than plaintiff."); Bernard v. Bethenergy Mines, Inc., 837 F. Supp. 714, 716-17 (W.D. Pa. 1993) (seven years difference and four years difference is not sufficiently younger), aff'd, 31 F.3d 1170 (3d Cir. 1994); Kuchta v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., Civ. No. 89-1332, 1992 WL 510994, at * 10 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 11, 1992) (prima facie case fails because replacement was seven months older than fired employee); Hill v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 729 F. Supp. 1071, 1074 n.5 (E.D. Pa. 1989) (seven years difference and six years difference was not sufficiently younger), aff'd, 902 F.2d 1560 (3d 1990).
Defendant contends that plaintiff failed to satisfy the fourth element of the prima facie test because plaintiff was replaced by Robert Murphy, who was born on April 19, 1933. Defendant's Reply to Plaintiff's Interrogatories No. 5. Plaintiff was born on September 19, 1933. Complaint P 3. As such, Robert Murphy is five months older than plaintiff. Thus, not only was plaintiff not replaced by a "sufficiently younger" employee, plaintiff was actually replaced by an older employee.
Plaintiff cites no case in the Third Circuit where an employee, who has been replaced by an individual of the same age or older, satisfies the fourth prong in the prima facie test. Instead, plaintiff quotes from a recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, O'Connor v. Consolidated Coin Caterers Corp., that "the fact that one person in the protected class has lost out to another person in the protected class is thus irrelevant, so long as he lost out because of his age." 134 L. Ed. 2d 433, 116 S. Ct. 1307, 1310 (1996). Although the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has yet to apply O'Connor in an age discrimination analysis, I do not believe that O'Connor will alter in any way the "sufficiently younger" requirement.
O'Connor involved a 56 year-old employee who was replaced by a 40 year-old employee. In that case, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stated that the fourth element of a prima facie case for age discrimination requires that the fired employee be "replaced by someone of comparable qualifications outside the protected class," i.e., under the age of 40, and thus concluded that the last element of the prima facie test was not satisfied because the replacement was within the protected class. 116 S. Ct. at 1309 (emphasis added). The Supreme Court of the United States reversed and held that replacements need not be outside the protected class for the plaintiff to establish a prima facie case. Id. at 1310. Particularly poignant to the case sub judice is the following statement by the Supreme Court:
The fact that a replacement is substantially younger than the plaintiff is a far more reliable indicator of age discrimination than is the fact that the plaintiff was replaced by someone outside the protected class.