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Age Discrimination in a Tough Economy

April 2, 2012

By admin

Victims of Employment Law violations face a burden of proof

The most obvious forms of workplace discrimination involve overtly racist or sexist remarks. What about age discrimination?

Age Discrimination Claims Are Up

Age discrimination is a real threat to workers over the age of 40. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the number of workers filing age discrimination complaints with the federal government increased steadily from 16,000 in 2006 to more than 23,000 in 2010. That’s an increase in complaints of almost 44%!

What’s driving the increase in complaints? True, the population is aging, but not at rates sufficient to explain a 44% increase in complaints. Unfortunately, older workers are struggling disproportionately in this bad economy. Older workers are frequently targeted in layoffs when their companies are struggling. And when older workers are laid off, they’re more likely to be out of work longer than younger employees.

The AARP estimated that the average duration of unemployment for job seekers aged 55 and over was about a year, whereas younger job seekers, on average, were able to find employment in a matter of months.

There are a few possible explanations for it: older workers tend to have more work experience and deeper skill sets, which means they command higher pay, which can make them targets for layoffs. Alternatively, some employers simply target older workers in their workforce with discriminatory animus.

Victims of Employment Law Violations Face a Burden of Proof


Like other victims of unlawful bias, older workers also face a high standard of proof when attempting to prove their discrimination claims. Even if people suspect they lost their jobs because of their age, they often fear that they won’t be able to provide proof. They also may fear the emotional and financial toll it could take to pursue an age-discrimination lawsuit. For most workers, if they were forced to choose between pursuing an age-discrimination claim or a job, they would be more likely to put their efforts into finding their next job.

If you’ve been victimized, how do you fight age discrimination in this employment law environment?

  • If your employer has 20 or more people on payroll, file a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Note that they do not accept these types of complaints online.
  • Depending on the EEOC’s workload, your complaint will either trigger an EEOC investigation or, more commonly, the EEOC will send you a “Right to Sue” letter which is required to bring your case to court.
  • You have 180 days from your termination to file a complaint with the EEOC and 90 days from receiving your “Right to Sue” letter to initiate action in federal court.

The EEOC is promulgating a new rule known as the “Final Regulation on Disparate Impact and Reasonable Factors Other than Age” that prohibits policies and practices of employers that effectively harm older workers more than younger workers, unless the company can show that the company’s policy is actually based upon a reasonable factor other than age.

The EEOC is promulgating a new rule known as the “Final Regulation on Disparate Impact and Reasonable Factors Other than Age” that prohibits policies and practices of employers that effectively harm older workers more than younger workers, unless the company can show that the company’s policy is actually based upon a reasonable factor other than age.

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