- Age Discrimination - 2010
- September 29, 2010
- Law Firm: Law Office of Jeffrey S. Blanck - Reno Office
Age discrimination is an issue that seems to come up as we all get older. In our twenties and thirties we don’t think about it at all, then after we turn forty and especially fifty we become more attuned to it. Federal Law prohibits discrimination based on age. You are in a protected class if you are forty or older.
The classic case of age discrimination is when a business fires an older employee, say, someone over 60, and replaces them with an employee in their twenties who is paid half as much to do the same job. The law use to provide for the inference to be drawn that the person was terminated because of their age. With a recent Supreme Court decision you now have to prove that “but for” the persons age, he wouldn’t have been fired. It is rare to have a case where the employer says or puts in writing that they are terminating an older employee to hire a younger one. This new standard makes it very difficult for a Plaintiff to succeed in litigation.
Some businesses might be gun-shy of terminating someone over forty but if there is just cause it isn’t an issue or if the employee is “at will” there are few restrictions on their termination. But the reasons need to be documented properly. What the law prohibits is the discriminatory termination of older employees so the company can just pay less in salary and benefits. Sometimes those yearly pay increases over a long period of time catch the eye of someone in finance who is looking to cut costs and personnel costs are usually one of a companies biggest expense categories.
Also the federal law only applies to businesses with over 15 employees. If you are a small company then you have fewer restrictions on your ability to terminate employees. But if you have more than fifteen employees and they are all “at will” you still can’t discriminate based upon age.
If an employee feels that they have been the victim of age discrimination they must file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 300 days before they can file a lawsuit. Also you must bring it to the attention of the company’s Human Resources department if they have one.
If you are not sure how to proceed either as an employee or an employer it is best to consult an attorney that practices in this area of the law.