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First Circuit Says Yawning During Interview Not Age Animus

    Client Alerts
  • July 18, 2008

Last month, the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that a hiring manager who yawned during a promotion interview did not display discriminatory animus toward an employee based on age.  In Arroyo-Audifred v. Verizon Wireless, Inc., the employee alleged that he had been denied several promotions, and cited the manager’s yawning during his interview as an indication that his answers did not matter since the company had decided not to promote him because of his age.

The court stated, “[w]hile we agree that such an act could make an interview awkward, we fail to see how an involuntary yawn evinces a hidden discriminatory animus any more than a sneeze or cough.”  The First Circuit explained that “[i]t is well settled that the court is required to draw only reasonable inferences in plaintiff’s favor.  Imputing an ulterior motive to a yawn is not such a reasonable inference.”

In holding that the lower court properly dismissed the employee’s claim, the court concluded that the employee offered nothing more than his subjective view as to the “true meaning” of an involuntary act.  The First Circuit made clear that this alone will not be sufficient to show discriminatory animus.