49-year-old replaced by 42-year-old can sue

Salesman Robert Liebman was fired at age 49 after working for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company for 27 years. He sued under the federal age discrimination law, which prohibits discrimination against workers over age 40.

MetLife argued that Liebman’s firing couldn’t possibly be discrimination because it replaced him with someone who was 42 years old, and thus was also protected by the law.

But a federal appeals court in Atlanta said it didn’t matter that Liebman’s replacement was also over 40. As long as his replacement was “substantially younger,” Liebman could sue and have a jury decide if he was discriminated against.