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Murphy v. Am. Home Prods. Corp. - 159 A.D.2d 46, 558 N.Y.S.2d 920 (App. Div. 1990)

Rule:

Evidence indicating discriminatory treatment by an employer of employees, other than the plaintiff, is relevant since such evidence is highly probative of the employer's actual state of mind. 

Facts:

Joseph Murphy worked in various accounting capacities until he was discharged at the age of 59 for "Lack of adaptability." Murphy’s evidence in support of his claim of age discrimination consisted of the testimony of a retired employee to indicate to the jury the biased state of mind and attitude of one of the employer's vice-presidents toward older employees. The trial court, on American Home Products Corporation’s motion, only permitted the retired employee to testify about the vice-president's remarks concerning older workers made at a retirement party. Murphy alleged that the trial court erred in limiting the retired employee's testimony.

Issue:

Did the trial court err in limiting the retired employee’s testimony?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Court ruled that the retired employee's intended testimony about his personal experience with the vice-president's discriminatory attitude toward older employees would have been relevant evidence in support of Murphy's age discrimination claim and should have been heard by the jury. The repeated discriminatory comments by the vice-president were at the very core of Murphy's case. The Court found that the trial court abused its discretion and held that the trial court's erroneous ruling denied the employee a fair trial.

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