Age-Discrimination Does Not Pay Off for Danaher Corp.

age-discriminationWhen her bosses told Codie Rael that she was a dumb female who was outdated and old culture, she got fed up and quit her job.  Then she filed a lawsuit against the company for age-discrimination. If you find yourself facing age discrimination, speaking to a local labor law attorney could open some doors for you.

Outcome of the Age-Discrimination Case

A jury found that Rael’s employers were malicious and oppressive, and hit them with a $31 million judgment: $3 million in compensatory damages and a whopping $28 million in punitive damages.

State and Federal Anti Age-Discrimination Laws

There are laws on the books protecting you from age discrimination in advertising for jobs, the application processes, hiring, offering promotions and training opportunities, and/or firing.  Compensation and working conditions cannot be assigned based on age, either.

Is it Age-Discrimination?

Proving age discrimination is getting tougher these days. Rael’s case was littered with overt age slurs, making it easier to prove that her age was an issue with her employers. Most employers are smart enough to know that making disparaging remarks about an employee’s age could get them into trouble.  

In past years, older employees who were let go as part of a reduction in staff could infer that age-discrimination was at the root of the termination. Recent court decisions have found that companies that are trying to reduce costs are within their rights to eliminate higher earning individuals—often those who are older. Reducing costs and age discrimination no longer go hand in hand. In order to win a discrimination case, employees must demonstrate that age was a central issue behind the firing.

If You Think You Have an Age-Discrimination Case

In the event you believe you have a case for age-discrimination, it is important to pay attention to timelines:

  • You have 300 days to file an age discrimination case with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if a state agency enforces anti-discrimination laws (California’s Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA) protects employees at work places that employ five or more people);
  • If you are filing suit under the Equal Pay Act, you have two years from the time of the incident to make your claim.

[Read more…]

Forced Retirement? Not so Fast!

forced retirementAre you being targeted for forced retirement? You enjoy working. You show up every day, ready to tackle the next project that comes your way. So, you are more than a little surprised when your boss suggests that retirement is something you should seriously consider. As time progresses, you find less significant tasks being assigned to you, and you notice younger employees eagerly attacking projects that used to be in your domain. Your employer is gently compelling you to ease on out the door. You start to question yourself: Are you too old for the job? Before you concede to your employer’s pressure to leave, you should really consult a knowledgeable employment attorney.

Forced Retirement – Legal Protections

Before you comply with the not-so-subtle forced retirement suggestion to pack up and leave, consider this: Federal law protects workers from being pushed out of a job with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967. Although some may view 65 as the desirable age for retirement, workers cannot be discriminated against due to their age. They certainly cannot be forced into a retirement that they do not want. The law applies to individuals aged 40 and older who work for a private company with at least 20 employees, or for any government entity. Not only are you protected from being forced out; if you are capable of performing your duties, your employer cannot demote you, insist you take a position with les responsibility, lower your pay, or move you into part-time work.

What About Benefits on the Job?

Older workers must be provided access to the same benefits as all other workers, as well. Even if you are eligible for Medicare, your health insurance benefits cannot be reduced. Beyond health care, other opportunities cannot be denied simply because of your age. You must have equal access to:

  • Training opportunities;
  • Prospects for promotions;
  • Lateral movement in the company.

Exceptions: BFOQ

On the other hand, if your employer can demonstrate that your age is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ), they may have grounds to discriminate. This is an unusual circumstance and is difficult to prove. (One possibility might be in casting for a commercial requiring a child actor). The employer, who has the burden of proof, must show three key facts:

  • The job qualifications expected are reasonable and essential to the functioning of the business;
  • Individuals over a particular age limit could not perform those duties with efficiency and safety;
  • The practicability of assessing fitness for the job on an individual basis is unreasonable or impossible.

[Read more…]

Age Discrimination Incurs Financial Settlements in California

The $26 million settlement in a Los Angeles Superior Court confirms what federal law states unequivocally: Age discrimination is against the law. 66-year-old Bobby Nickel was fired after being the brunt of age-related jokes and receiving pressure to retire. Although the company claimed the job action was related to other issues, the court found that Nickel was discriminated against due to his age.

A Fresno-based company paid $11,500 to a claimant who was denied a cashier’s position, which was ultimately given to a younger, less experienced applicant. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined that hiring decisions were based on age, and the claimant was discriminated against.

Legal Protections Exist for Older Workers

Fortunately, the Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 protects both applicants and employees who are over the age of 40 from workplace bias. If you feel you are a victim of workplace discrimination based on your age, contact the experienced Santa Rosa attorneys at Beck Law P.C. for a free consultation.  Successful litigation of workplace bias may be based on a variety of issues, including:

  • Harassment or name-calling;
  • Compensation discrepancies;
  • Duty differentiation;
  • Benefit disparities:
  • Educational opportunities or lack thereof;
  • Promotion, or lack thereof;
  • Hiring, or disinclination to hire;
  • Firing.

When The Company Claims Factors Other than Age Impacted their Actions

Naturally, the problem of workplace discrimination is generally clandestine, and although you, as a worker or potential employee, may feel the effects, it is not a part of any written, or even spoken policy.

Sometimes employers claim a firing is simply a necessary reduction in force.  In this case, it is incumbent upon the employer to show that the RIF does not disparately impact older employees.  Additionally, the action must be justified by a “reasonable factor other than age.”

Older workers may be targeted due to the higher costs of insuring them. The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 requires employers to provide equivalent payout for all employee benefits.  Therefore, although some workers may have higher deductibles than others, the employer contribution to all worker benefits must be equal.  Additionally, employers may not decide to exclude older workers from insurance plans in an effort to reduce negative impacts on the insurance pool. [Read more…]

EEOC Age Discrimination Lawsuit Filed against Milpitas

age discrimination lawsuitA Federal age discrimination lawsuit has been filed against the City of Milpitas. Why? Well, many employers make hiring decisions using a points system in which points are assigned to applicants based on their attributes, such as experience and education. Using a system like this can be helpful, not only when it comes to making the best decisions, but also in defending their hiring choices if there is an accusation of discrimination.

However, the use of such a system can present a major problem for an employer when a discrimination complaint is filed – if the applicant chosen wasn’t the one who received the most points.

Officials in the city of Milpitas, California – located between San Jose and Fremont – chose to hire a candidate for an administrative position even though four older candidates had higher scores. The city is now facing a federal age discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The Milpitas Age Discrimination Lawsuit

The lawsuit alleges that the city violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) in 2013 when it hired Rachel Currie, who was then 39 years old, as executive secretary to the city manager. A review panel had ranked the applicants for the position according to a 100-point scale. The panel gave Currie a score of 82.33. Four other women who had applied for the position, who were between the ages of 42 and 58, had received higher scores. (According to the San Jose Mercury News, an additional applicant named Lori Casagrande was also turned down for the position, but she is not part of the EEOC’s lawsuit, as she is seeking a private lawsuit against the city.)

The ADEA is a federal law prohibiting age discrimination against employees who are 40 years of age or older. The EEOC found in 2014 that there was reasonable cause to believe that Casagrande and the four women named in the lawsuit were all victims of age discrimination in violation of the ADEA. After issuing the finding, an attempt at conciliation failed, with the parties unable to agree to a settlement, which led the EEOC to sue the city in the District Court for the Northern District of California.

The EEOC is seeking damages for the applicants, as well as injunctive relief seeking a change in the city’s hiring practices. According to William Tamayo, the Director of the EEOC’s San Francisco District, the front and back pay for the four defendants is about $200,000.

Avoiding the High Costs of Litigation

23% of the claims filed with the EEOC in 2014 were age discrimination complaints. The costs of defending these suits can be tremendous, and yet many businesses do not have policies in place to deal with the issue of age discrimination.  [Read more…]

Ninth Circuit Issues an Important Age Discrimination Ruling

age discrimination rulingThe Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s age discrimination ruling in the case of France v. Johnson, has overturned a District Court’s ruling on a federal age discrimination complaint. The Ninth Circuit’s decision, which was issued on August 3, 2015, sets an important precedent for how Ninth Circuit courts must handle claims arising under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

The decision includes the following holdings:

  • If an employee files an ADEA complaint after being turned down for a promotion and the claimaint is less than 10 years older than the employee who received the promotion, then there is a rebuttable presumption that the difference in age is insubstantial. However, if there is an age difference of 10 years or more, then there is a rebuttable presumption that the difference in age is substantial. (This is the standard that has previously been applied by the Seventh Circuit.)
  • If someone involved in making an employment decisions makes a discriminatory remark, it can create a genuine dispute of material fact regarding pretext even if the person who made the remark was not the final decision maker.
  • The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s previous declaration that circumstantial evidence relied upon by a plaintiff must be specific and substantial is tempered by its stance that the burden a plaintiff faces in raising a triable issue of fact is “hardly an onerous one.”

The Age Discrimination Case

The claim was filed by John France, a border patrol agent who works for the Department of Homeland Security. France applied for a promotion to a GS-15 position and was the oldest of 24 applicants. (He was 54 at the time, and the youngest applicant was 38.)

When France was not one of the six top-ranked candidates and thus was not eligible for final consideration, he filed a complaint under the ADEA. He argued that he had evidence of age discrimination, because one of the decision makers commented that he wanted to hire “young, dynamic” employees.

At trial, the decision makers argued that there were several nondiscriminatory reasons why France was not promoted, including poor leadership and judgment skills. The district court granted summary judgment to the Department of Homeland Security. The court’s ruling stated that France successfully established a prima facie case of age discrimination, but could not show that there was a genuine dispute of material fact regarding the agency’s purported nondiscriminatory reasons for why they did not promote him.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s decision. Its ruling stated that even though the average age of the selected employees was 8 years younger than France’s age – and thus was insufficient to establish a prima facie case of discrimination – France could nonetheless rebut the presumption that the decision was made for nondiscriminatory reasons. The court held that France’s evidence was substantial enough that a reasonable jury could find, by a preponderance of the evidence, that discrimination took place. [Read more…]

Understanding Workplace Age Discrimination Laws

workplace age discrimination lawsUnderstanding workplace age discrimination laws. Age discrimination occurs when a person is treated differently, or denied a benefit, right or service because of their actual or perceived age. Age discrimination is more subtle than other forms of discrimination, but can be just as pervasive in a workplace.

Workplace Age Discrimination Laws

Both federal and California state laws provide specific prohibitions against age discrimination in the workplace. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) prohibits age discrimination against all persons 40 years or older. The ADEA is applicable to employers with 20 or more employees, and this includes labor organizations, employment agencies and also state and local governments. This law prohibits unfavorable treatment against those who are 40 years or older, though it is not illegal for employers to favor an older employee over a younger employer, even when both workers are over the age of 40. Furthermore, age discrimination can be conducted by a person who is also over the age of 40.

The ADEA prohibits age discrimination from occurring during any part of the employment process, which includes firing, hiring, job assignments, training, promotions, layoffs, benefit payouts, and for any other condition or term of employment. Harassment is also prohibited by the ADEA. Harassment can take an assortment of forms and can include offensive remarks about an employee’s age and ability to perform job functions as the result of their age. Furthermore, an employment practice/policy that has general applicability to all employees, regardless of their age, can still be found illegal under the ADEA if that practice/policy is not based on a reasonable factor other than age, and has a negative impact on employees 40 years of age or older.

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provides specific prohibitions against discrimination in California workplaces. The FEHA applies to all employers with five or more employees, and this includes government bodies, labor organizations, apprenticeship programs, employment agencies and private employers. Under the FEHA, there is an exception to the five-employee minimum when harassment has occurred in the workplace. Under this exception, all employers with one or more persons, or those receiving the services of at least one independent contractor, are subject to the FEHA’s prohibition against workplace harassment. This exception also allows individual co-workers who are harassing other employees to be held strictly liable for their actions.

Both the ADEA and the FEHA provide employees with a cause of action to file suit against their employers because of workplace age discrimination laws. However, state administrative remedies provided under the FEHA must first be exhausted before a civil action is pursued under the ADEA. In order to pursue age discrimination suit under federal law, the age discrimination suit must be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days of the alleged discrimination, or within 30 days after the EEOC receives notice from the California’s Department of Employment & Housing (DFEH) that they will not pursuing the age discrimination claim.

Age discrimination in the workplace is a very important issue that is prohibited by both state and federal laws. If you work in Sonoma County, Mendocino County, or Lake County California and feel that your employer is in violation of workplace age discrimination laws, contact the employment law attorneys at Beck Law P.C. in California today.

Understanding the Basics of California Age Discrimination Laws

California age discrimination lawCalifornia age discrimination law – Understanding the basics. Age discrimination is the unlawful practice of treating someone differently because of their perceived or actual age. Age discrimination is specifically prohibited under both employment law and housing law. Age discrimination is one of the many forms of discrimination along with discrimination based on sex, race, and religion, and is explicitly prohibited under both California state and federal laws. Under federal law, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits age discrimination in the workplace against people who are 40 years old or older. This law does not provide protections for those workers who are under the age of 40 and face age discrimination in the workplace, and the ADEA also does not make it illegal for an employer to favor an older worker over a younger worker, even if both workers are 40 years of age or older.

The FEHA & Employment Discrimination

The California state law that provides protections against age discrimination in the workplace is the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The FEHA prohibits discrimination, retaliation and harassment in both housing and employment when such illegal practices are based on a person being 40 years or older or because of that person’s “religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability (including AIDS and HIV), mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions), age (40 or older), or sexual orientation (heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality).”

The FEHA is part of California’s broader public policy goals of protecting residents’ civil rights to obtain, hold and seek employment while being free from discrimination. The FEHA is enforced by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), the agency that prosecutes cases brought under the FEHA, and the Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC), the state agency that rules on cases brought by the DFEH and citizens. Claims that an employer has violated the FEHA can be litigated either in an administrative hearing before the FEHC, or in civil court. If an administrative hearing is held, an employee who wins a claim against an employer can recover past wages, out of pocket expenses, and also up to $150,000 in emotional distress damages. When an FEHA case is litigated in civil court, the employee can recover unlimited monetary damages for emotional distress, punitive damages, past wages, attorney’s fees and any other out-of-pocket expenses associated with the case.

Employers Covered Under FEHA

Any employer that regularly employs five or more persons is covered under the FEHA. Ultimately, private employers, as well as state, local, counties and all other governmental bodies are covered by the FEHA, as well as labor organizations, apprenticeship programs and employment agencies. Furthermore, an exception to the five-employee minimum requirement exists when harassment is alleged. In such a situation, all employers who employ one or more persons or receive the services of one or more independent contractor(s) can be found guilty of violating the FEHA because harassment occurred based on age in the workplace. Under the FEHA, an employer is guilty for harassment that occurred in the workplace that the employer either ignored, or should have known about, but did not act to prevent further discrimination, harassment or retaliation. Furthermore, individual co-workers can be found personally liable for violating the FEHA, but only if they engaged in harassment.

Do you need legal representation in an age discrimination employment law suit? Contact an employment law attorney at Beck Law P.C. in Santa Rosa, California today.

Disclaimer

The information on this website should not be considered to be legal advice, nor construed to be the formation of any manner of attorney client relationship. Prior to taking any form of legal action, please consult with an attorney experienced in the appropriate area of law germane to your situation. Case results and testimonials presented on www.californialaborandemploymentlaw.net or any of its related websites are germane to the facts present for each individual case and is not a promise of similar outcomes for any other cases. This website is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of California.