Case: Santillan v. USA Waste of Cal., Inc. (September 2017)

Case: Santillan v. USA Waste of Cal., Inc. (September 2017)

08 November 2017

Gilberto Santillan had been a residential garbage truck driver for USA Waste for 32 years when he was fired in 2011. He ultimately hired a wrongful termination lawyer / employment lawyer and filed a wrongful termination lawsuit based on age discrimination and retaliation.

Santillan was recognized for excellent service by the Manhattan Beach community in which he worked. He had few issues at work until a new route manager was hired for his region. This new route manager wrote Santillan up multiple times, but Santillan disputed the write-ups. Santillan was terminated. He was one of five older Spanish-speaking drivers to be fired after this new manager took over the region. He was replaced by a worker 13 years younger with less experience.

Ultimately, Santillan filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination based on age discrimination and retaliation. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of USA Waste. Summary judgment is a court ruling that either party can request if they believe that there are no facts that prove a claim, so no jury could find a violation of law. The district court ruled that Santillan had failed to establish a prima facie case—meaning that he had not provided enough support to prove that he had an arguable case.

Santillan appealed his case, and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the decision. The Appeals Court ruled that by putting forth evidence of the age gap between him and his replacement, and by showing several other older employees were terminated, Santillan had provided enough evidence to allow a jury to decide the case.

This case will assist employees subjected to wrongful termination, as it requires courts to allow cases to proceed with what might be considered minimal circumstantial evidence when an employer cannot provide a strong legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for termination.

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