It’s not uncommon for employers in today’s bottom-line-oriented economy to look askance at older workers. Older workers often have higher salaries than younger employees. They may need to take more time off for health care or to care for older parents. Employers often see older workers as a drain on their costs for retirement, health care and other benefits.
Cases of age discrimination in the workplace are increasing as baby boomers reach their 60s. However, age bias can also affect workers in their 50s and younger. In Florida and other states, employees age 40 and older are protected against employment-related age discrimination.
While age discrimination begins with a bias against older workers, it can take many forms:
- Older workers may be passed up for promotion in favor of less qualified, though younger, workers.
- An employer may refuse to hire qualified older workers.
- Workforce reductions may target older workers.
- An employer may demote an older worker or give him or her a less distinguished title.
- An employer may give an older worker an assignment with diminished responsibilities.
- An employer may offer less favorable work assignments or hours to older workers.
- Older workers may not receive the same training or other opportunities offered to younger workers.
- Employer may make the work environment so unpleasant for older workers, they feel pressured to leave the company.
Employers who would be careful to avoid making statements that are racist or sexist may blithely make blatant comments disparaging of a worker’s age. Here are just a few examples of statements that crop up in age discrimination lawsuits:
- “We need workers who are more in tune with the times.”
- “This company could use fresh blood.”
- “When are you going to retire?”
- “Don’t you think it’s time to move on?”
- “You’re an old fuddy duddy.”
- “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Statements like these can be used as direct evidence of age discrimination. Websites such as thelayoff.com, which provide a forum where workers can post anonymously about workforce reductions, can provide a source of information about adverse actions targeting older workers.
At The Amlong Firm, we’re lawyers who spend most of our time representing employees in negotiations and lawsuits against their employers or former employers. Many of our clients are men and woman who have suffered age or other forms of discrimination in the workplace. Age discrimination lawsuits are covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The Florida Civil Rights Act likewise prohibits age discrimination.
The ADEA provides for an award of back pay, front pay and liquidated damages for willful discrimination. The Florida Civil Rights Act, in addition to back pay and going-forward relief, provides for compensatory and punitive damages.
These cases often have good jury appeal, since everybody grows older and would not like to be treated the way many companies treat their older workers.