The EEOC Continues to Fight Age Discrimination in the Workplace

For many years, the federal government has attempted to ensure that many different kinds of workers are protected from discrimination. One such area has been in the area of age discrimination. To ensure that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of age, the federal government has passed laws such as the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 to effect this objective.[1]Age Discrimination, Dept. of Labor, https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/discrimination/agedisc (last accessed Aug. 12, 2018). By understanding how these laws work, you may be able to discern whether or not your rights under these statutes have been violated.

“The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older. It does not protect workers under the age of 40, although some states have laws that protect younger workers from age discrimination.”[2]EEOC, https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/age.cfm (last accessed Aug. 12, 2018). This law “prohibits discrimination in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.”[3]EEOC, https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/age.cfm (last accessed Aug. 12, 2018). Further, this law prohibits harassment based on age when “it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).”[4]EEOC, https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/age.cfm (last accessed Aug. 12, 2018). 

Age Discrimination - Older worker shows a rookie the ropes.

Despite these laws, however, recent cases show the continued trend of age discrimination in various businesses. For example, in May 2018, “[t]he U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a major restaurant operator reached a $2.85 million settlement of an age discrimination class action lawsuit that alleged managers asked older job applicants their age, made age-related comments during job interviews, and hired older workers at a significantly lower rate than applicants who were under age 40.”[5]Jennifer Cerven, In a Culture of Inclusiveness, Don’t Overlook Age, National Law Review (June 1, 2018), https://www.natlawreview.com/article/culture-inclusiveness-don-t-overlook-age. Further, “Facebook and companies that use the popular social media site to advertise job openings are facing scrutiny for allegedly targeting career ads based on Facebook users’ age, among other criteria.  At least one lawsuit on behalf of a proposed class of workers in California, filed in December and amended this week, challenges targeted advertising for allegedly focusing on younger Facebook users and screening out older job seekers.”[6]Jennifer Cerven, In a Culture of Inclusiveness, Don’t Overlook Age, National Law Review (June 1, 2018), https://www.natlawreview.com/article/culture-inclusiveness-don-t-overlook-age. Also, “[a] major accounting firm is defending itself against allegations that its on-campus recruitment program to hire new college graduates for entry-level positions is discriminatory against older workers.”[7]Jennifer Cerven, In a Culture of Inclusiveness, Don’t Overlook Age, National Law Review (June 1, 2018), https://www.natlawreview.com/article/culture-inclusiveness-don-t-overlook-age. Finally, the EEOC has reported that in 2016 that there were over 20,000 reported complaints regarding allegations of age discrimination.[8]ADEA Charge Data: Fiscal Years 1980 – 2016, EEOC, https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/adea50th/charge-data.cfm (last accessed Aug. 11, 2018).

Currently, the EEOC is taking action to prevent discrimination against workers over 40 in several cases across the country. For example, the EEOC recently sued Urbana School District number 116 in Illinois.[9]National Law Review (Aug. 13, 2018), https://www.natlawreview.com/article/eeoc-sues-urbana-school-district-no-116-age-discrimination. According to the EEOC, “the agency’s pre-suit investigation found that the Urbana School District limited the salary increases of Charles Koplinski and a group of other teachers over the age of 45 because of their age, due to a provision of a collective bargaining agreement between the school district and the union representing teachers.”(National Law Review (Aug. 13, 2018), https://www.natlawreview.com/article/eeoc-sues-urbana-school-district-no-116-age-discrimination.)) The EEOC found that the “provision limits the salary increases of teachers who are within ten years of retirement eligibility to no more than six percent above their previous year’s salary.”[10]National Law Review (Aug. 13, 2018), https://www.natlawreview.com/article/eeoc-sues-urbana-school-district-no-116-age-discrimination. Finally, the EEOC stated that “Koplinski, age 52, had completed post-graduate classes that should have entitled to him to receive more than a six percent raise for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. But because Koplinski’s age at the time put him within ten years of retirement eligibility, his raise was capped at six percent for both school years.”[11]National Law Review (Aug. 13, 2018), https://www.natlawreview.com/article/eeoc-sues-urbana-school-district-no-116-age-discrimination. Because of this cap, the EEOC initiated a lawsuit against the school district earlier this month and time will tell how this court, and perhaps others, interpret the ADEA going further.[12]National Law Review (Aug. 13, 2018), https://www.natlawreview.com/article/eeoc-sues-urbana-school-district-no-116-age-discrimination.

Ultimately, despite the numerous laws passed to curtail age discrimination this practice has and will likely continue to be present in many employment fields. While these laws and agencies may expand on these protections, only time will tell how these fields will change in the future. If, however, you feel as if you have been discriminated against based on your age or some other characteristic, you should consult with legal counsel immediately to discuss your possible courses of action.

References

References
1 Age Discrimination, Dept. of Labor, https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/discrimination/agedisc (last accessed Aug. 12, 2018).
2, 3, 4 EEOC, https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/age.cfm (last accessed Aug. 12, 2018).
5, 6, 7 Jennifer Cerven, In a Culture of Inclusiveness, Don’t Overlook Age, National Law Review (June 1, 2018), https://www.natlawreview.com/article/culture-inclusiveness-don-t-overlook-age.
8 ADEA Charge Data: Fiscal Years 1980 – 2016, EEOC, https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/adea50th/charge-data.cfm (last accessed Aug. 11, 2018).
9, 10, 11, 12 National Law Review (Aug. 13, 2018), https://www.natlawreview.com/article/eeoc-sues-urbana-school-district-no-116-age-discrimination.
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