Even as America’s workforce ages, fighting age discrimination has only become more difficult. As explained by the Huffington Post, the Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Group “raised the bar for age discrimination complaints. Instead of having to show that age was a substantial motivating factor in a discriminatory employment decision, plaintiffs from 2009 on have had to prove their age was the decisive factor.” (Emphasis added.)
Despite this legal environment, an Ohio man formerly employed by the state government won over half a million dollars in age discrimination damages this month. The Columbus Dispatch reported that he was a contractor for the Department of Natural Resources; when the Department created a full-time position comprising his tasks, he applied. The state proceeded to hire “someone 15 years younger,” despite the fact that the plaintiff “scored highest [of] all those interviewed.”
A few weeks earlier, a former employee of the city of Milwaukee won his job back—plus back pay—when his age discrimination case was adjudicated. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had the details: “He was 52 when he became the network administrator [at the Health Department] in 1999. Ten years later, he was still in the position—until it was eliminated after city Health Commissioner Bevan Baker remarked he could hire 15-year-olds for such work.”
Despite these victories, unfair age-based treatment remains a reality for far too many workers. New York City Council Member and Chair of the Council’s Aging Committee Jessica Lappin wrote an op-ed this month about the challenges facing seniors: “New Yorkers over 55 quickly learn the open secret that ‘overqualified’ means ‘too old.'”
Lappin points to encouraging signs: “Drugstore chain CVS is trying to attract senior employees by offering classes to help with the online application process.” She also explains the value of the city’s Senior Employment Services (SES) program—or, “Title 5”—which provides seniors with training, job placement, and a subsidy. Unfortunately, as Lappin explains, Title 5 has been damaged by federal budget cuts.
A few politicians at the national level are similarly committed to combating age discrimination. Legislation introduced in March by Chuck Grassley, a Republican, and Tom Harkin, a Democrat, would “undo the Supreme Court’s decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Group.”
The Harman Firm strongly supports this bipartisan effort to protect older workers. If you believe you may have suffered discrimination at work, contact The Harman Firm today.
Also check out this short video, in which attorney Walker Harman explains age discrimination in New York State: