Massachusetts Age Discrimination Lawsuit Highlights Workforce Issues During Economic Downturn

An age-discrimination lawsuit in Massachusetts has been filed against the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, according to a report by Business First.

Boston employment attorneys have witnessed an increase in age discrimination lawsuits since the beginning of the economic downturn. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports the number of age discrimination lawsuits has increased 50 percent in little more than a decade, from 15,785 in 1997 to 23,264 in 2010. 1308399_lamb_chops_and_asparagus.jpg

“The number of age discrimination charges filed with the EEOC has risen significantly over the years, which prompted the Commission to conduct a meeting on the subject last December” said Jacqueline A. Berrien, Chair of the EEOC. “Denying jobs to qualified applicants who are over 40 years old on account of their age is illegal, and as we heard during the Commission meeting, it can have devastating consequences for older workers and their families.”

In many cases, employers have looked to shed payroll by reducing workforce, which is legal and a perfectly legitimate business decision. But older workers have had some success in fighting back; veteran employees are often the highest paid and the first targeted.

In other cases, Baby Boomers thought they would just work a few more years to make up for paltry retirement savings. For those folks, being downsized can have a devastating impact on retirement. And, as is often the case for older workers, starting over or finding other comparable employment may be difficult or impossible.

Yet companies have a right to manage the bottom line. Consulting a business litigation law firm with extensive experience in employment law can help insulate a company from employment lawsuits alleging age discrimination or other issues.

As this case illustrates, age may even be a barrier to entering the restaurant and service industry. Texas Roadhouse is accused of age discrimination in its choice of younger workers. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts this week alleges that, since at least 2007, the company instructed managers to hire workers outside the EEOC’s protected age group –which includes those employees over the age of 40.

The Louisville-based restaurant chain denies the allegations.

The lawsuit seeks a change in the chain’s hiring policies as well as the payment of lost wages to potential employees who were not hired because of their age. The suit alleges only 1.9 percent of front-house employees (those dealing with customers) are over the age of 40 — a figure that is “well below” a representative sampling of the population in areas around the company’s restaurants.

The EEOC called the disparities “statistically significant.” The company is accused of encouraging managers to hire young workers. All of the employees in the company’s training and employment literature feature younger workers. As the EEOC noted, the statistics don’t begin to tell the tale when it comes to age discrimination; in many cases, an older worker may never know why he or she didn’t get the job.

A Boston employment law firm, The Brown Law Firm, LLC, has offices in Belmont and Boston. For a free and confidential consultation, call 617-489-0817 or contact us through this website.

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