Omid Nosrati

Law would 'level the playing field' for older employees

As our blog has discussed before, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the historic measure that expressly prohibits employment discrimination based on age, should grant workers age 40 and older considerable reassurance.

While it's a somewhat frightening prospect to imagine where we would be without the ADEA, the unfortunate reality is that age discrimination remains a very real and highly destructive issue. Consider that a 2013 study by the AARP found that nearly 2 in 3 workers between the ages of 45 to 74 reported experiencing some manner of work-related age discrimination.

It's against this backdrop and the continuing fallout from Gross vs. FBL Financial Services, a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court case, which declared that plaintiffs must meet a higher burden of proof in demonstrating age discrimination (i.e., not a motivating factor, but the sole factor), that a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers has introduced the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act.   

Sponsored by Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bob Casey (D-PA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the act is designed to "level the playing field for older workers" by restoring the pre-2009 legal standards for bringing an age discrimination claim that were set aside by Gross.

While it remains to be seen whether the legislation gains traction, those California employees who suspect they have been victimized by age discrimination should keep the following points in mind:

  • Age discrimination can occur at all levels from hiring, training and firing to layoffs, compensation, and job assignments
  • Even if the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act does not pass, it certainly doesn't mean that's it's impossible to prevail in an age discrimination lawsuit
  • You are protected not just by the ADEA, but also the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, which applies to all employers with five or more workers, and permits the awarding of lost wages and emotional distress damages

If you have questions about your rights and your options regarding the pursuit of an age discrimination claim, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can explain the law, outline your options and pursue justice on your behalf.

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