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Serrins & Associates LLC Employment Law Blog

Sunday, March 12, 2017

AGE DISCRIMINATION: A Closer Look

Two months, two separate lawsuits: in late February, the second former employee in as many months launched a lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler America, the Michigan-based car manufacturer, alleging that its corporate headquarters engaged in systemic age discrimination, denying raises and promotions to older workers. One claim from the complaint: top executives viewed photographs of employees during performance evaluations, and said evaluations resulted in suspiciously low scores for over-55 workers, even those who had been glowing reviews by their immediate supervisors. This comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed two months ago by a former diversity manager at the company, who claimed to have uncovered evidence that both older and African-American workers were disproportionately and illegally penalized during the review process.

So what’s going on here? Unfortunately, Fiat Chrysler is not unique in having these sorts of allegations leveled against it. Age discrimination is a fact in the modern American workplace – and let’s face it, this probably didn’t start in modern times. We’re only hearing about it more now because laws were passed by the federal government in 1967, 1975, and again in 1990 making age discrimination illegal, and making workers over 40 a protected class.

The Serrins Law Blog is choosing now to highlight this issue because, thanks to a combination of academic study and legislative action, age discrimination is suddenly coming to the forefront of the public consciousness. Last week, the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank released the results of a massive, years-in-the-works study examining age discrimination trends. The study, conducted using 40,000 fake resumes sent to 13,000 job openings which differed only in age and gender, revealed “compelling evidence” of systemic discrimination, particularly for older women workers. Simply put, older female workers (and older male workers in certain professions) were less likely to get a response from a job poster, even when controlling for all other variables. Indeed, even when the resume was exactly the same!

Now, two Republican senators are working with Democrats to introduce new federal legislation to tighten existing age discrimination laws. The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act would plug a loophole in existing law that arose in 2009, when the Supreme Court held that under current statutes, plaintiffs claiming age discrimination had to show that age was the sole and only motivating factor of their employers in taking an adverse action against them, not just one factor. Certainly, it’s encouraging that in a time of such partisan acrimony, senators in both parties can come together to combat discrimination against older workers and job seekers.

New York State and City both have their own laws against age discrimination. The patchwork of federal, state, and local regulations of this issue can be a bit complex to navigate. If you feel you have been the victim of age discrimination, either on the job or in seeking employment, contact our firm and set up a free telephone consult




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