Filing a lawsuit for any kind of discrimination is a difficult decision that isn’t taken lightly. Age discrimination is particularly difficult, and can have long-term ramifications. Age discrimination is personal. You’ve worked hard for a long time and have a lot of years of good experience. But suddenly, after your 40th (or 50th) birthday, you wake up and realize you’re not working there anymore. You may have a very difficult time finding a new job, especially after 50. What happened?
With more employees shunning retirement and working longer, age discrimination is becoming more common in companies both large and small. The EEOC reports that age discrimination complaints are increasing. From 1997 through 2007, there were less than 20,000 filings per year.
In 2008, however, the number of filings increased from 23,000 to 25,000 per year. That’s just the people who filed a complaint — without a report, there are likely more cases of age discrimination that no one knows about. In Colorado alone, there were 370 age discrimination complaints filed in 2018. By comparison, California recorded 1,062, and Texas recorded 1,744.
So why do older people find themselves unemployed after a long, successful career? There are a number of misconceptions about “older workers,” including:
- They can’t deal with technology (i.e., computers, smartphones, conference calls, etc.)
- Their health insurance costs more, because after 50 they have more health problems
- They don’t need a job because they’re so close to retirement
- They cost more in wages and salaries, so it’s fiscally prudent to lay them off and hire younger, less expensive workers.
However, older workers tend to be more reliable than younger workers, but are generally targeted first in a reduction in force.
While employers are quite sneaky about hiding their age-discrimination tendencies, there are occasions where they make missteps, such as asking about your retirement, or making disparaging comments to younger employees about a worker over 40. That’s when you may decide to file a complaint with the EEOC, and follow with an age discrimination lawsuit.
Collecting evidence for age discrimination
If you’re finding yourself the target of such comments or treatment, document everything. For instance, if your boss asks you about your retirement plans, or makes other disparaging remarks, keep a record of the time, date, and any witnesses who heard it. Follow up with an email to him or her thanking him for his concern, and that you currently have no plans to retire, that you enjoy your work. Print and file copies of these types of emails and other documents.
- If you were told about such comments by another employee that were not made in your presence, document that as well, including the individual who told you.
Gather copies of all of your performance reviews, especially reviews that demonstrate your good work record and performance. If your reviews have abruptly changed after years of doing well, your previous good reviews will be a strong contrast.
Watch how younger employees are treated in relation to older employees, whether it’s work-related, promotion related, firing or layoff related, or how they are treated in the same circumstances as someone over 40. If you find a pattern of age-related bias, begin keeping records of these individuals and how they were treated differently than those under 35 or 40. This is especially true in disciplinary cases.
Favoritism towards younger employees, such as work assignments, sales leads, meetings, promotions and other patterns may also indicate discrimination. This should also be documented, even if the supervisor is “over a certain age.”
After a period of good performance reviews, if you suddenly find yourself with negative reviews, write-ups or other disciplinary actions, there’s a good chance you are being targeted. The goal is to either find a way to fire you or to get you to quit. Again, documentation is key to proving your case in an age discrimination lawsuit.
Whether you are in a hearing with the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD) or EEOC, or a court hearing, you’ll be asked questions by a well-equipped defense counsel. While you are there to prove disparate treatment and disparate impact, they are ready to disprove your claims of age discrimination.
You’ll be required to prove that you are in a protected class (over 40) and are qualified to do your job, but that you suffered an adverse action in your employment and were treated differently than employees who were under 40. Expect pointed questions from both your own attorney, and by your employer’s attorney. You’ll be asked about your training, qualifications, and other relevant questions that are intended to disprove your claim.
Your employer will then be required to prove that the action was not discriminatory, and the action had a legitimate reason, and was for a reason other than age. While a requirement to lift 50+ pounds occasionally might be reasonable for some jobs, they could be used to discriminate against individuals where such a requirement wouldn’t be necessary.
Should this be proven, at this point, the burden of proof is yours to show that the action was a pretext and in fact, discriminatory. Working with an age discrimination attorney will help you prove your case successfully to increase your chance of winning your case and having a settlement.
Your Denver civil rights attorney
Being fired or laid off because of your age, even when hidden by another reason, is age discrimination and against the law. Get help with your case before you file a complaint. Call the Civil Rights Litigation Group at (720) 515-6165, or use our online contact form, to schedule your free consultation with us today. We’ll aggressively defend you in court and make sure your rights are protected and you are treated fairly.