The legal issue was whether the plaintiff, Cortez who had worked for Wal-Mart for 17 years as an assistant manager was failed to be promoted by Wal-Mart too a general manger position due to his age being over 40. This would be a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), and at the time of his resignation, Cortez was about 48 years old.
The court found that Wal-Mart had indeed violated ADEA and awarded damages to Cortez. On appeal, Wal-Mart challenged the district court's decision by arguing that Cortez failed to prove that he was qualified for a promotion and also failed to establish that his complaint was timely filed. The court also found that Cortez had established a prima facie case of discrimination and provided enough evidence for the jury to reject Wal-Mart's explanation.
2) Why does the court conclude that the active "coaching" in Cortez's file did not render him unqualified for promotion and thus unable to establish a prima facie case?
It is undisputable that Cortez had active "coaching" in his file, which he contested upon receipt and deemed undeserving; unfortunately for Cortez, it was within a year of a potential General Manger position, which made him ineligible for a promotion. The court however, disagreed with the notion that the active "coaching" in Cortez's file made him unqualified for a promotion and, thus, unable to establish a prima facie. The court also concluded that because such criteria for promotion are not mentioned in the employee handbook, even though it was unwritten policy, it is irrelevant. Furthermore, it is really unknown whether a coaching-free year is an objective and one of many qualifications that Cortez needed to establish for a prima facie case. Wal-Mart tried to assert that its no-coaching qualification was set as an objective measure that was part of the promotion criteria. The coaching itself is subjective and based partly on the subjective opinions of a manager. At trial, Garnern, Cortez's supervisor, testified that coaching is "not always" based on the subjective opinions of a supervisor, and the court disagreed.
3) What was the evidence that Cortez was discriminated against?
Cortez had more than ten years of assistant managerial experience; his managers and his colleagues praised him for his leadership, especially after opening the new store in Albuquerque, which was around the same time that he was seeking a promotion. For three years, he was the co-general manager at a store in Puerto-Rico and shared the same responsibilities as the other general manger. Cortez and his colleagues, including Charles Wright, also testified that they were told by some Wal-Mart exclusives that they needed to step aside so that "younger"