Many people think that employers would welcome older workers on the payroll and value the experience they bring to the job. Unfortunately this is not always the case. As the American workforce ages, so has discrimination against older workers. In fact, age discrimination is one of the fastest growing types of employment discrimination.
In a recent case evaluating the discrimination claims of a 59-year-old California woman, Earl v. Nielsen Media Research, Inc., the Ninth Circuit determined that the older worker, Charlene Earl, could bring a claim for age discrimination where she was able to show specific and substantial evidence that significantly younger workers received more lenient treatment from the company for violations of the same company policies.
Age discrimination laws such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) make age discrimination illegal and prohibit discrimination against anyone of the age of 40. This includes taking adverse employment actions or subjecting you to harassment because of your age.
Here, Earl was fired after working 12 years with minimal discipline. Nielsen claimed that it fired her for legitimate reasons after determining she had committed several policy violations. However, Earl countered that this was “pretext” and that the real reason she was fired was her age. As evidence she showed examples that Nielsen had treated younger, similarly situated employees better and that she was fired without first providing her a “performance improvement plan (PIP)” which was standard procedure.
An important consideration in the case was whether the employees shown were proper “comparators” with Earl. The court determined that in age discrimination cases, older employees may use evidence of better treatment of younger employees –even if they are over 40. As stated in the opinion, “although sex (discrimination) and race discrimination rely on membership in a particular class, “age discrimination is relative, the proper inquiry is not whether the other recruiter are outside the protected class, but whether they are substantially younger than Earl.” “[T]he fact that a replacement is substantially younger than the plaintiff is a far more reliable indicator of age discrimination than is the fact that the plaintiff was replaced by someone outside the protected class.”
Because Earl was able to show younger employees received better treatment than she did, the court allowed Earl’s claim for discrimination to continue.
If you believe you have been treated unfairly at work as a result of your age, you may have a claim for age discrimination. An experienced Atlanta age discrimination lawyer can evaluate the circumstances and provide crucial advice regarding your next steps. For more information and a confidential case evaluation, please contact the experienced Georgia employment discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP.