Judge Tosses Age Discrimination Claim in ‘Simpsons’ Composer Alf Clausen’s Firing

Alf Clausen
Todd Williamson/Invision for the Television AcademyAP Images

A judge has dismissed an age discrimination claim brought by former “Simpsons” composer Alf Clausen, who was fired from the show in 2017.

Judge Michael L. Stern granted a motion to strike the claim in a ruling on Friday, finding that 20th Century Fox had a free speech right to choose the composer for the show.

The producers have said in court filings that they decided to terminate Clausen after they became dissatisfied with his work on a hip-hop themed episode. The producers felt that Clausen, who was 75 at the time, was not comfortable with rap or hip-hop music, and they were worried about keeping the show relevant.

They also became concerned that Clausen was farming out much of the work to his son, according to court filings. The show ultimately hired Bleeding Fingers Music, a composer collective that made greater use of synth music, cutting the show’s music costs by 40%.

In his ruling, Stern held that Clausen had not provided enough evidence to show that his firing was based on age discrimination in order to overcome Fox’s free speech rights.

Clausen has also sued for disability discrimination, arguing that he was fired in part due to his Parkinson’s diagnosis.

The judge allowed Clausen to proceed with that claim. Clausen will also be able to pursue several other claims, including wrongful discharge, retaliation and unfair business practices.

In dismissing the age discrimination claim, Stern relied on two prior cases in which a CBS weatherman and a rock drummer were each fired and each claimed it was due to their ages. The employers — CBS and Eddie Money — filed motions to strike the cases under the California anti-SLAPP statute, which is intended to dispose of frivolous suits that challenge protected speech.

In both cases, the Court of Appeal held that the employer’s decision was in furtherance of its free speech rights, dismissing the claims.