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age-discriminationWhen her bosses told Codie Rael that she was a dumb female who was outdated and old culture, she got fed up and quit her job.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…]

Workplace Age Discrimination

workplace age discriminationLabor law and workplace age discrimination. You have worked for your employer for some time, and you are starting to notice a disturbing trend. Younger employees seem to be passing you by at an alarming rate. Are these colleagues outperforming you, or are you experiencing workplace age discrimination? If you suspect ageism is at the root of the issue, it may be worthwhile to consult an employment attorney for advice.

What is Workplace Age Discrimination?

When individuals who are 40 and older experience roadblocks in the workplace and age is a primary factor, it is age discrimination. Federal law addresses the issue through the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Under ADEA, making age a factor in employment decisions with regard to hiring and firing, promotions and assignments, and compensation and perks is unlawful. In addition to the ADEA, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) support fair practices for aging workers and potential workers.

Workplace Age Discrimination Complaints on the Rise

If you suspect workplace age discrimination is holding you back, you are not alone. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (USEEOC), the number of workplace age discrimination complaints in this country has grown from 19.8%in 1997 to 22.8% of all discrimination complaints. Nearly 21,000 such complaints were filed last year.

Whether or not complaints have been filed, older Americans report that age discrimination is alive and well in America. In fact, nearly 70% of workers aged 45-75 note that they have either seen or personally experienced the problem. Astonishingly, age is cited as one of the biggest obstacle to workers over the age of 35, particularly in high tech industries. The most common form of age discrimination, in fact, is related to not getting hired in the first place.

What We Know About Older Workers:

Research confirms several key points about older workers and what they need and want from their jobs:

  • Most older Americans are working for economic reasons. They need a salary, or benefits, or both;
  • Many older Americans are simply working because they enjoy it, and some are working on building up a nest egg for the future;
  • Older workers want respect;
  • These workers wish to be in a position that utilizes their particular talents and abilities.
  • Older workers report being significantly more engaged in their work than their younger counterparts.

How do I Know if Workplace Age Discrimination is the Problem?

Proving age discrimination requires a significant burden of proof. Some things that may tip your employer’s hand include:

  • Younger workers are being hired to replace fired older workers;
  • You are assigned unenviable tasks in an attempt to get you to leave voluntarily;
  • Your boss informally chats you up and asks when you are planning on moving on to greener pastures;
  • After receiving glowing performance reviews for some time, you suddenly see your reviews take a significant dip. It looks like someone’s building a case to let you go;
  • Everyone around you seems to be getting raises, but your pay is stagnant, despite equivalent job performance.

[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…]

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