New England Employment Law: Age Discrimination on the Rise

It could come in the form of being turned down for a key project. Or it could be a more blatant pass-up for a raise or promotion.
Age discrimination is often tough to identify, because it tends to be fairly subtle. However, our Boston employment lawyers understand that with the oldest baby boomers turning 68 this year, the number of claims for age discrimination is climbing.

According to a recent report by the AARP and MetLife, one out of every five workers today between the ages of 45 and 74 believe they were turned down for a job because of their age. One in 10 say they were overlooked for a promotion, laid off or denied some kind of career development opportunity because of their age.

Even many of those individuals who say they haven’t been held back significantly as a result of their age say they have experienced some kind of put-down or negative slight attributable to their age. Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes not. It comes in the form of words like “geezer” or admonishments to “keep up.” In some cases, it’s simply a dismissive look.

In and of themselves, these might not be grounds for litigation. However, accompanied by a seemingly systematic effort to either keep that person from advancing or, worse still, force them out of a company entirely, a case can often be made.

We expect we’ll continue to see more of these kinds of cases in the coming years. Of the oldest boomers, those born in 1946, about 50 percent have fully retired, according to MetLife. However, a little more than 20 percent are still on the job full-time and another 12 percent or so are working part-time. The reasons for delaying retirement ranges from personal financial hardship to merely wanting to continue working and contributing.

Whereas the target retirement age in 2008 was 66, today it’s 71.

On one hand, that leaves stiffer competition for jobs. It could also lead to harsh feelings from those in the younger generation. There is the belief that older workers are sucking up opportunities that should be offered to younger people.

But in addition to this is the fact that baby boomers, who throughout their lives have been identified as trailblazers on many fronts, are much more aware of their rights under the law. They know that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits harassment or discrimination against someone on the basis of their age. They also recognize that so long as the action has a negative impact on workers over the age of 40, they may have grounds for litigation.

What makes it a bit tougher these days is a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Gross v. FBL Financial Services. The case set the precedent that requires age discrimination be not just one of several motivating factors in a negative action against an employee, but rather it must be the primary factor.

Just because these cases are tougher to win doesn’t mean success is impossible. If you believe you have been discriminated against due to your age, contact our experienced employment law office.

The Brown Law Firm, LLC, has offices in Belmont and Boston. For a free and confidential consultation, call 617-489-0817 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:
Oldest Boomers Are Increasingly Facing Discrimination in the Workplace, July 30, 2013, By Dan Kadlec, TIME Magazine
More Blog Entries:
Massachusetts Wage Theft a Growing Concern, June 29, 2013, Boston Employment Lawyer Blog

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