Opara v. Yellin, 57 F.4th 709 (9th Cir. 2023)

Joan Opara was terminated from her employment as an IRS revenue officer after the IRS determined she had committed several “UNAX offenses” (i.e., incidents of unauthorized access of taxpayer data). Following her termination, Opara sued the Treasury Secretary, alleging she was terminated in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Title VII for, respectively, age and national origin discrimination. The district court granted summary judgment to the Treasury Secretary, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed, concluding that Opara’s direct evidence of age-related discriminatory animus (several age-related comments from a decision maker), while sufficient to support a prima facie case of age discrimination, was insufficient to raise a genuine issue as to pretext concerning the reasons offered by the Secretary for the termination. The reason the direct evidence was insufficient to defeat the summary judgment motion was because it consisted entirely of Opara’s own uncorroborated and self-serving testimony and allegations (citing Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054 (9th Cir. 2002)). The Ninth Circuit also affirmed dismissal of Opara’s age/national origin discrimination claims based on her failure to show pretext for the UNAX offenses.