In early November 2020, a former employee sued a national phone company for age discrimination. In the complaint filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the former worker claimed that their employer created a culture of ageism. The plaintiff accused the company of unlawfully terminating older employees and convincing them that they had no right to sue for age discrimination. The is not the first time the phone company has been accused of violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). This recent case reflects a troubling trend of businesses breaking the law to get rid of senior employees.
As is stands today, the unemployment rate for people who are 65 years old and older is 2.5 times more than it was during the last recession. More and more, older workers are being eliminated because business owners assume they are less competent; this not only inaccurate, and it is also illegal.
In the most recent age discrimination complaint against this employer, the former worker claimed that the phone company was displeased of having an aging workplace. The plaintiff alleges that the company began eliminating jobs outside of specific locations in 2019. The plaintiff was one of these workers placed on surplus status and eventually terminated. The plaintiff was convinced that in exchange for signing a release form to receive a severance package, they gave up their right to sue the phone company. While the phone company positioned the layoffs were based on specific locations, the plaintiff alleges the layoffs were part of a larger effort to replace older employees with younger staff.
How are Older Workers Protected?
The ADEA is federal legislation designed to combat age discrimination in the workplace. Under the ADEA, is it unlawful for an employer to do the following:
- Fire or refuse to hire someone or otherwise treat a person unfairly in terms of pay, employment terms, conditions, and privileges because they are 40 years old or older.
- Segregate older workers in a way that deprives them of employment opportunities.
- Unfairly pay older workers less than their younger counterparts.
In addition to employers, labor organizations and employment agencies are held to the same standards under the ADEA and can be sued if they discriminate against members or prospective employees.
The ADEA contains a series of other provisions protecting applicants, new hires, and longstanding employees from age discrimination. Also, the ADEA makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate or retaliate against whistleblowers.
What are the Other Forms of Job Discrimination?
Age discrimination is just one form of employment discrimination. In Pennsylvania and across the nation, it is unlawful to discriminate against a current or prospective employee because of the following:
Like age discrimination, retaliation in the workplace against a person who speaks out against any of these forms of job discrimination is also illegal.
Anyone who has experienced the following should consider taking action:
- Not being hired for a job despite having all necessary qualifications.
- Being passed over for a promotion in favor of a younger, less experienced colleague.
- Being furloughed or terminated because of one’s age.
- A hostile workplace.
What is a Hostile Workplace?
An offensive comment about a person’s age does not necessarily constitute unlawful discrimination. However, when discrimination impacts a person’s career prospects and escalates to the point that working seems impossible, it is considered a hostile work environment. Some employees are made to feel so unwelcomed or irrelevant that going to work becomes traumatic. When an employee feels that their workplace is hostile, legal action is warranted.
How Do I File an Age Discrimination Complaint?
When age discrimination happens at work, it is important to step back, assess the situation, and follow the proper protocols for filing a discrimination complaint in the state of Pennsylvania. A worker should do the following steps when they encounter discrimination:
File an Internal Grievance
Report concerns about age discrimination with a supervisor or the Human Resources (HR) department according to company procedures. Procedures should be found in the employee handbook. A person experiencing any type of work discrimination should keep texts, emails, voicemails, and other forms evidence to support their claims.
File a Formal Charge
If the employer refuses to address discriminatory practices or settle with the worker, it is time to file a complaint with either the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Once claims are investigated, the agency will either dismiss them, encourage the employer to remedy the discrimination, or take legal action against them.
Consult a Lawyer
Nearly nine out of every 10 age discrimination claims that reach the EEOC are dismissed, and just seven percent of cases go to settlement. That is little encouragement to workers who feel overlooked or discounted. A victim who does not feel their concerns have been resolved can seek legal counsel from a lawyer. A lawyer will look at the facts at hand, apply the law, and recommend the best course of action to achieve justice.
Any worker considering taking action against an employer should know there are deadlines for reporting discrimination. While it makes sense to proceed with caution, waiting too long to act can jeopardize a possible settlement or future legal claim. Due to this, it is best that a victim consults a lawyer as soon as possible.
How are Older Employees Beneficial to Businesses?
By the year 2025, 25 percent of workers in the United States will be over 55 years old. Research shows there is no age limit on drive, curiosity, and the desire to acquire new skills. Growth and experience expand with age. All industries benefit from workers of all ages, backgrounds, and skillsets. Instead of dismissing older workers, companies should recognize their unique abilities and employ them in leadership positions. Creating a diverse work culture is invaluable.
Even though older workers are valuable, discrimination can still occur. Any worker who feels they are being discriminated against at work should contact a lawyer about their options.
Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Fight Ageism in the Workplace
If you are encountering age discrimination at work, one of our skilled Philadelphia employment discrimination lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. can help. Our lawyers protect older workers, and we can help you with your case. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation today. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.