Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) certain job applicants and employees 40 years of age and older are protected from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, firing, promotions, compensation, or terms, conditions or privileges of employment. Although it is prohibited, many older employees are subject to age discrimination in some shape or form every day in America’s workplaces. Victims may have little recourse unless they can provide evidence of age discrimination, which is often subtle, but may be blatant with so many employers forgetting there is in fact an age law and it applies to them.
Take the case of the two Ohio State University teachers, who started to suspect age discrimination when a new program director came on board and began disparaging them (and other veteran employees) despite their exemplary performance records, all while promoting young, inexperienced people. The first solid piece of evidence pointing to age discrimination for them was in an email the boss accidentally copied staff in on telling a friend he was dealing with “an extraordinarily change-averse population of people, almost all of whom are over 50, contemplating retirement (or not) and it’s like herding hippos”.
Over the next few years, in a campaign they believed was orchestrated to drive them out, many older instructors lost their offices and were directed to share computers in a cramped open space. Their junior colleagues, on the other hand, were given choice assignments, got promotions, worked in offices with their very own computers – the new boss could be heard calling veteran teachers “dead wood” and “millstones” adding insult to injury. One by one, older employees, their positions threatened with elimination or reclassification at lower salaries, cracked under the pressure and left. Eventually the two teachers retired long before they intended, but not before they filed a complaint with the EEOC and filed suit which recently turned the tide.
In November of last year, their age discrimination lawsuit was victorious. The EEOC found that the women and their colleges were in fact discriminated against under the ADEA. The settlement from the university included not only the reinstatement of their jobs, back pay and retroactive benefits, and attorney’s fees for all involved, they also won prospective injunctive relief — actions to avert illegal policies in the future. The case serves as a reminder that employers must treat age discrimination as seriously as they take other forms of discrimination in the workplace, including discrimination on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, and physical disability.
If you are a victim of workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment, or subject to retaliation for lodging a complaint, contact the Des Moines employment discrimination law offices of Marc A. Humphrey for assistance today at 515-331-3510.
Source: AARP, “Ohio State Settles Age-Discrimination Lawsuit”, by Kenneth Terrell, June 1, 2018