France v. Johnson, 2015 WL 4604730 (9th Cir. 2015)

John France, a border patrol agent assigned to the Tucson Sector Border Patrol, applied for a promotion to Assistant Chief Patrol Agent (GS-15 pay grade). Of the 24 eligible candidates, France was the oldest (age 54). Although France was among the top 12 candidates invited for interviews in Washington, DC, he was not among the top six who received final consideration for the position. In response, France sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”). Although the district court found that France had established a prima facie case of age discrimination, he did not demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact with respect to the agency’s proffered nondiscriminatory reasons for not promoting him. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that less than an average 10-year age difference between France and the four selected candidates created a rebuttable presumption that the age difference was insubstantial but that France had rebutted that presumption with evidence of his supervisor’s expression of a preference for “young, dynamic agents” and his repeated discussions with France about retirement (despite France’s “clear indication that he did not want to retire”). The Court further held there was a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether France’s supervisor influenced or was involved in the promotion decisions (even though he was not the final decisionmaker). In addition, the supervisor’s repeated discussions about retirement suggested the nondiscriminatory reasons offered by the agency may have been pretextual.

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Photo of Tony Oncidi Tony Oncidi

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including…

Anthony J. Oncidi is the co-chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department and heads the West Coast Labor & Employment group in the firm’s Los Angeles office.

Tony represents employers and management in all aspects of labor relations and employment law, including litigation and preventive counseling, wage and hour matters, including class actions, wrongful termination, employee discipline, Title VII and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, executive employment contract disputes, sexual harassment training and investigations, workplace violence, drug testing and privacy issues, Sarbanes-Oxley claims and employee raiding and trade secret protection. A substantial portion of Tony’s practice involves the defense of employers in large class actions, employment discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination litigation in state and federal court as well as arbitration proceedings, including FINRA matters.

Tony is recognized as a leading lawyer by such highly respected publications and organizations as the Los Angeles Daily JournalThe Hollywood Reporter, and Chambers USA, which gives him the highest possible rating (“Band 1”) for Labor & Employment.  According to Chambers USA, clients say Tony is “brilliant at what he does… He is even keeled, has a high emotional IQ, is a great legal writer and orator, and never gives up.” Other clients report:  “Tony has an outstanding reputation” and he is “smart, cost effective and appropriately aggressive.” Tony is hailed as “outstanding,” particularly for his “ability to merge top-shelf lawyerly advice with pragmatic business acumen.” He is highly respected in the industry, with other commentators lauding him as a “phenomenal strategist” and “one of the top employment litigators in the country.”

“Tony is the author of the treatise titled Employment Discrimination Depositions (Juris Pub’g 2020; www.jurispub.com), co-author of Proskauer on Privacy (PLI 2020), and, since 1990, has been a regular columnist for the official publication of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State Bar of California and the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Tony has been a featured guest on Fox 11 News and CBS News in Los Angeles. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading national media outlets such as The National Law JournalBloomberg News, The New York Times, and Newsweek and Time magazines. Tony is a frequent speaker on employment law topics for large and small groups of employers and their counsel, including the Society for Human Resource Management (“SHRM”), PIHRA, the National CLE Conference, National Business Institute, the Employment Round Table of Southern California (Board Member), the Council on Education in Management, the Institute for Corporate Counsel, the State Bar of California, the California Continuing Education of the Bar Program and the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills Bar Associations. He has testified as an expert witness regarding wage and hour issues as well as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and has served as a faculty member of the National Employment Law Institute. He has served as an arbitrator in an employment discrimination matter.

Tony is an appointed Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission Board of Rights and has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law and a guest lecturer at USC Law School and a guest lecturer at UCLA Law School.