Articles Posted in Age Discrimination

Once upon a time in America, the concept of “lifetime employment” was the norm. The average worker counted on staying with an employer until retirement, at which point he or she could also look forward to a decent pension from his or her employer.

Those days are long gone.

Not only is lifetime employment virtually unheard of these days, but older workers also frequently find themselves among the ranks of the long-term unemployed. At first glance, unemployment statistics appear to indicate that older workers are in a better position than their younger counterparts; however, those statistics deceive.

Note to any potential plaintiffs out there: if you win $80,000 in an age discrimination lawsuit, and you sign a confidentiality agreement, avoid bragging about your win on social media to 1,200 people, many of whom are intimately connected with the defendant.

Unfortunately for 69-year-old Patrick Snay, the Headmaster of a Miami school (Gulliver Preparatory), such a gaff just cost him a major settlement. He had sued his former school for age discrimination, after Gulliver terminated his contract in 2010. He won $80,000 in November 2011, and that should have been that.

However, there was a catch. (Isn’t there always?)

Last October, an anonymous actress launched an age discrimination lawsuit against Amazon and its subsidiary, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB). For months, Tinsel Town has been abuzz with speculation about who the actress might be. The anonymous woman claimed that Amazon extracted her personal information from a credit card and used it to date her as a “40-year-old woman” on the IMDB service. She claimed that this information subsequently cost her work. In the words of the filing, it led to a “substantial decrease in acting credits, employment opportunities and earnings.”

This Hollywood age discrimination suit struck a chord, even with many who considered the idea of suing Amazon to be excessive. After all, Screen Actors Guild statistics suggest that women over the age of 40 account for just 12% of film and TV roles. Meanwhile, in the general US population, women over 40 make up nearly a quarter of the population.

In December, a Seattle judge dismissed the woman’s lawsuit on the grounds that she could not pursue the complaint anonymously. This led to the big revelation: her name. Drumroll please. It is…

The popular Atlanta-based restaurant chain Huddle House has come under the gun for alleged wage and hour violations. According to a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation, Huddle House also allegedly violated labor laws.

A story in Nation’s Restaurant News catalogued the bad news: some “employees’ income did not meet the minimum wage because they were required to share their tips with different employees, or because the restaurants took deduction for breakage losses, damages and check cashing fees. In addition, some non-tipped employees, such as cooks, were paid less than minimum wage.”

On top of that, many tipped employees were not correctly paid for overtime, and some employees who were non-exempt didn’t receive any overtime at all. In one case, a 15-year-old employee at Huddle House worked more hours than the law allows; that Huddle House franchise faces a child labor violation charge.

Victims of workplace sexual harassment, gender discrimination, wage and hour violations, and other atrocious and illegal treatment often wait a shockingly long time to take action to stop the bad behavior, seek justice, and move on. Why is this?

Are victims psychologically weak, scared, or intimidated? Are their cases less than rock solid? Are they seeing mistreatment where there really isn’t any?

In many cases, the problem can be summed up nicely with the famous “boiling frog” metaphor. This is a metaphor that Al Gore made famous in his “Inconvenient Truth” documentary. Scientists and pundits evoke it to illustrate how it is possible for someone to drift into desperate straits without realizing it… until it’s too late to do anything about it.

According to an April 25th article in the Hartford Courant, last year, employees filed nearly 100,000 complaints of workplace discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – “an all-time high.”

More than 33,000 complaints were specifically for retaliation, which has now surpassed “racial discrimination” as the number one EEOC complaint. The EEOC also received high numbers of racial discrimination, gender discrimination, disability and national origin, and religious discrimination complaints last year.

A spokesperson for Connecticut’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO), Jim O’Neill, blamed the spike on the recession: “The economy is bad and people are desperate not to lose their jobs, so they are filing complaints they would not necessarily have made in the past.”

On January 14th, Miriam O’Reilly, a 51-year-old British television host, won an age discrimination case against the British Broadcast Service (BBC) in a widely-publicized London employment case. O’Reilly, who had hosted the BBC show Countryfile about rural happenings in England, was fired by BBC in early 2009.

Did age have anything to do with her firing? You be the judge. According to an AP article, “one colleague offered her hair dye,” another told her “it’s time for Botox,” and a third said “her wrinkles could be a problem in this new era of high-definition TV.” Furthermore, witnesses for O’Reilly “testified about television’s relentless demand for ‘refreshing faces’ and ‘spring chickens.'”

The Employment Tribunal, the British independent judicial organization which determines disputes between employers and employees, ruled that it was legitimate for the BBC to try to appeal to younger viewers but that it was not acceptable to choose “younger presenters” so as to “pander to the assumed prejudices of some younger viewers.”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) won a resounding victory in an age discrimination case on June 14th when an Arizona packaging company was ordered to pay out $250,000 to three 40-something claimants. The settlement followed a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversal of a lower court judgment that had originally dismissed claims against the company (TIN Inc) by awarding the company a summary judgment.

In its review last October, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that two TIN Inc supervisors had said things that led the jury to conclude “that they harbored discriminatory animus towards older workers.” The container board company will pay $0.25 million to the three fired employees, who worked at TIN Inc from 2000 to 2005. In addition, the company must educate all employees about the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

Last year, the EEOC collected over $72 million for age discrimination claimants, and the organization received nearly 23,000 complaints.

A federal judge in Wichita, Kansas has thrown out an age discrimination class action suit against Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems. Judge Eric Melgren ruled on June 30th in a 44-page order that neither Boeing nor Spirit violated the Age Discrimination Employment Act – and that the companies didn’t owe compensation to nearly 800 ex-Boeing workers.


When Spirit divested from Boeing, many workers lost their jobs – 90 former Boeing employees filed suit in late December 2005, claiming that their rights under the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA) had been violated by these firings.

Jeff Turner, the current CEO of Spirit, was quoted in the past to have remarked that “Boeing’s workforce was getting older… and the managers need to find ways to do something about it.” This statement on its own suggests that ageism was at work. But Judge Melgren ruled that the CEO’s statement – when taken in its broader context – was actually benign. It was intended as a statement of concern about how the company could survive if a sizable number of employees retired at once and left Spirit with a callow workforce.

New York City has robust anti-employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation laws on the books. But NYC was not always so friendly to claimants. This article briefly reviews the history and evolution of the Big Apple’s journey to ensuring fair treatment for city workers.

1944

Mayor LaGuardia forms the Mayor’s Committee on Unity via an executive order, in part to address citizen concerns following 1943 race riots. LaGuardia’s committee lacks enforcement powers. Despite this, he manages to make some progress, settling disputes in Harlem and Coney Island, and being instrumental in passing a Fair Educational Practices Act.