McKennon v. Nashville Banner Publishing Co., 513 U.S. 352 (1995)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the sixth circuit

No. 93-1543. Argued November 2, 1994—Decided January 23, 1995

Alleging that her discharge by respondent Nashville Banner Publishing

Company violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), petitioner McKennon filed suit seeking a variety of legal and equitable remedies available under the ADEA, including backpay. After she admitted in her deposition that she had copied several of the Banner's confidential documents during her final year of employment, the District Court granted summary judgment for the company, holding that McKennon's misconduct was grounds for her termination and that neither backpay nor any other remedy was available to her under the ADEA. The Court of Appeals affirmed on the same rationale.

Held: An employee discharged in violation of the ADEA is not barred from all relief when, after her discharge, her employer discovers evidence of wrongdoing that, in any event, would have led to her termination on lawful and legitimate grounds had the employer known of it. Pp. 356-363. (a) Such after-acquired evidence is not a complete bar to ADEA recovery. Even if the employee's misconduct may be considered to be supervening grounds for termination, the ADEA violation that prompted the discharge cannot be altogether disregarded. The Act's remedial provisions, 29 U. S. C. 626(b); see also 216(b), are designed both to compensate employees for injuries caused by prohibited discrimination and to deter employers from engaging in such discrimination. The private litigant who seeks redress for his or her injuries vindicates both of these objectives, and it would not accord with this scheme if after-acquired evidence of wrongdoing barred all relief. Mt. Healthy City Bd. of Ed. v. Doyle, 429 U. S. 274, 284-287, distinguished. Pp. 356-360. (b) Nevertheless, after-acquired evidence of the employee's wrongdoing must be taken into account in determining the specific remedy, lest the employer's legitimate concerns be ignored. Because the ADEA simply prohibits discrimination, and does not constrain employers from exercising significant other prerogatives and discretions in the usual course of hiring, promoting, and discharging employees, employee wrongdoing is relevant in taking due account of such lawful preroga-

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