Lauren L. Logan

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In McKennon v. Nashville Banner Publishing Co., the United States Supreme Court held that after-acquired evidence of employee wrongdoing that would have led to termination on lawful and legitimate grounds does not bar the employee from all relief sought under an employment discrimination action. The plaintiff, Christine McKennon, had worked for the defendant, Nashville Banner Publishing Company, for thirty years when, as claimed by Banner, she was discharged as part of a work force reduction plan. McKennon, who was sixty-two years old at the time of her discharge, claimed that her termination was based on her age. She filed suit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, alleging a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA") and seeking the legal and equitable remedies available under the statute-back pay and liquidated damages. During discovery, Banner took McKennon's deposition and learned she had copied confidential documents concerning the company's financial condition. McKennon maintained she copied the documents for her own protection. Banner sent McKennon a letter saying that her actions were in violation of her job responsibilities and again notified her that she was terminated. The letter indicated that if Banner had known of McKennon's misconduct at the time of her termination, it would have discharged her at once for that reason. Both parties agreed that had Nashville Banner known of McKennon's misconduct before discharge, the company would have had lawful grounds for discharge based on the neutral application of Banner's employment policies. In order to reach summary judgment, Banner conceded discrimination against McKennon. The district court held that McKennon's misconduct constituted grounds for termination and that, based on the after-acquired evidence doctrine, she was not entitled to any remedies under the ADEA. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed on the same rationale. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve conflicting views among the circuit courts of appeals and held that an employee discharged in violation of the ADEA is not barred from all relief when, after her discharge, the employer discovers evidence of wrongdoing, that in any event, would have led to the employee's termination on lawful and legitimate grounds. In addition, the Court determined that back pay, but not reinstatement or front pay, is appropriate inder the ADEA if all relief is not barred.