As America’s workforce gets older, many employees will face new challenges on the job, especially from age discrimination. Singling an employee or applicant out unfavorably because of age is illegal, and when employers engage in this type of discrimination, they open themselves up to lawsuits. This week we have a few examples of age discrimination cases that are either underway or that have been successful.
Take the example of Suzy, who brought suit against her employer, SEIU local 521 union in California, for wrongful termination due to her age. Even though California is an “at will’ state, meaning an employee can be fired for any (legal) reason, age discrimination against those over 40 is illegal.
It seemed innocent enough at the start: Suzy’s employer started asking when she was going to retire.
It seemed innocent enough at the start: Suzy’s employer started asking when she was going to retire. After a while, though, things began to escalate, and after two car accidents (neither of which were her fault) caused her to miss work, Suzy was told by letter to empty her desk or someone would do it for her.
Was this age discrimination? Suzy, who spent 60-80 hours a week knocking on doors for the union, believes it was. Despite her many years of service successfully recruiting members for the SEIU, she was replaced by someone more than 30 years her junior. This fact, coupled with the difficulties from her accidents, resulted in her alleged wrongful termination. Her case is not over yet, and we’ll be waiting to see the outcome!
In another case in California, a former maintenance worker was fired after an injury sustained at work caused him to be unable to lift over 50 pounds–on doctor’s orders. He claimed after he was fired that the termination was due only to his age–he was over 55–and disability. The employer denies any wrongdoing in the case.
When he refused, the company let him go anyway, and the employee brought them to trial.
Finally, a 66-year-old Staples employee of nine years was awarded $26 million in damages when he was able to successfully bring suit against his employers by proving that, despite great job reviews, they were trying to get rid of older, better paid employees. He also claimed he was the victim of targeted harassment aimed at getting him to quit. When he refused, the company let him go anyway, and the employee brought them to trial.
According to the EEOC, age discrimination complaints have increased dramatically in the last few years: up to 25,000 more annually since 2008. You can read more about these cases here, and there are government resources that can help you learn more about this topic in general. Employment law can be complicated and overwhelming, so it’s usually best to consult a lawyer for help. If you are more than 40 years old, think you’ve been discriminated against because of your age and have further questions, please contact us here!