Best Ohio Age Discrimination Attorney Help: What federal law protects against age discrimination? Can my boss choose to promote a younger employee because he’ll be around longer? What should I do if my manger discriminates against older workers?
Bosses, mangers, and supervisors look to make the company you work for successful. This means taking a long term view and planning for the future. Often times this means hiring and promoting the best qualified employees that can grow into a management position and stay for a long time. But, what happens when the best qualified employees are not viewed as the employees that will be around for the long haul. This is an issue that faces many business owners and bosses when older employees are the best candidates for hire or promotion. The boss or manager may think, “Should I promote a 58 year old to lead supervisor because she is the best qualified or should I promote the slightly less qualified 32 year old?” The typical thought is that the 32 year old has the potential to stay on the job longer, but today most people recognize that it is very uncommon for employees to stay at the same job for decades anymore. In this scenario, the employer is not blatantly discriminating because they dislike older employees, but rather making a business decision to invest in training someone that the company has a better chance on getting a longer return out of. While this may sound reasonable, it is still unlawful age discrimination
At The Spitz Law Firm, LLC, our employment discrimination lawyers have regularly blogged about employees who have been subjected to age discrimination, which is prohibited under Ohio and federal law. (See Age Discrimination Plaintiffs Beware: Filing an EEOC Complaint; Age Discrimination: A Good Verdict.; Age Discrimination: Sometimes, It Is Just That Simple.; and My Boss Said I’m Too Old To Keep Working!).
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA“) makes it unlawful for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s age. One way to prove age discrimination under the ADEA is for the employee to set forth “direct” evidence of age discrimination. Direct evidence of age discrimination includes an employer’s comments referring directly to an employee’s age.
Sometimes, age discrimination occurs not in the context of wrongful termination, but on the opposite end—during the hiring process. A recent example can be found in the United States District Court for the Western Division of Tennessee’s decision in EEOC v. Memphis, Light, Gas & Water Division. In Memphis, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“)
brought an age discrimination complaint on behalf of Carlos Phifer, an employee of MLGW. Specifically, Phifer claimed that MLGW passed him over for a Computer Operator Specialist position because of his age (57 years old). Phifer worked as a COS 1 from March 2007 through December 2007. From January 2008 through April 2009, Phifer served as the acting Chief of Data Processing and Records Retention. Thereafter, he worked as a Clerical Support III and Service Advisor. On May 17, 2011, MLGW posted a notice that it was looking to hire a full-time Computer Operator Specialist (COS) to work in the Data Processing and Records Retention area.
Phifer submitted a timely application for the COS position and was one of three individuals selected for interviews. After interviews, the interview panel scored the three candidates and determined that Phifer was the most qualified. As a result, Phifer was selected by the interview panel for the position. However, according to the lawsuit, MLGW’s Manager of Information Technology, Elvis Morgan vetoed the panel’s decision to hire Phifer and told the panel to hire one of the other two interviewees. According to Phifer, Morgan made comments about Phifer’s age and being “closer to retirement” when turning him away from the position. MLGW disputed these allegations and filed for summary judgment (which is to have the case thrown out as a matter of law before it reaches the jury) as to Phifer’s age discrimination claims.
As set forth by the Court, “To prevail on an age discrimination claim, ‘it is not sufficient for the plaintiff to show that age was a motivating factor in the adverse action; rather, the ADEA’s ‘because of’ language requires that a plaintiff prove by a preponderance of the evidence (which may be direct or circumstantial) that age was the ‘but-for’ cause of the challenged employer decision.’” The Court determined that while the EEOC could not establish Phifer’s age discrimination claim by direct evidence, there was sufficient circumstantial evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact to deny summary judgment.
In denying summary judgment, the Court determined that Phifer was able to set forth sufficient evidence of “pretext” regarding his age discrimination claim. “A plaintiff can demonstrate pretext by showing that the proffered reason (1) has no basis in fact, (2) did not actually motivate the defendant’s challenged conduct, or (3) was insufficient to warrant the challenged conduct.” The Court found that Phifer met this standard by setting forth the following:
Even though Morgan’s age-related questions and comments do not constitute direct evidence of age discrimination, his comments provide support to show that MLGW’s employment decision was impermissibly based on Phifer’s age. In addition to Morgan’s questions and comments, the EEOC has presented evidence that (1) Phifer received the highest score of the three candidates, and was the only one who fell within the “Superior” category; (2) the summary comments and observations noted on the interview records showed that Phifer had experience working as a COS 1 on rotation, prior operations experience, passion for the job, and people skills, and no observed weaknesses; (3) Joiner received an interview score of 2.0, placing her in the lower “Clearly Acceptable” category; (4) Conway found that Joiner “struggled with the interview as far as answering the questions, so I questioned if she truly had the ability”; (5) the panel unanimously determined that Phifer was the most qualified and the best fit to fill the vacancy, and selected Phifer for the position; (6) Morgan refused to allow Price to move forward with extending the offer to Phifer and instructed Price to offer the position to Joiner; and (7) MLGW failed to follow its own policies and procedures by selecting an external candidate over a qualified full-time internal candidate. The court finds that this evidence, taken as a whole and viewed in the light most favorable to the EEOC, is sufficient to permit a reasonable jury to conclude that Phifer’s age was the but-for cause of MLGW’s employment decision.
Based on the foregoing, the Court denied summary judgment as to Phifer’s ADEA claim, including his claim for back pay and liquidated damages, which were issues for the jury to resolve at trial.
If you are an employee over the age of 40 years old and believe that you are being discriminated because you are older than other employees; or have be wrongfully terminated or fired instead of someone younger or were replaced with some younger than you, you may have an age discrimination claim under Ohio law or the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Even if you are not sure about your age discrimination claim, you should call the right attorney as quickly as possible to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. Age discrimination claims have very short statute of limitations, which means that you only have a very short amount of time to figure out if you have an age discrimination claim and take action. It is unlawful for employers to treat older employees differently. At the free initial consultation, you can tell us the specifics about how “my boss did …” or what happened on “my job.”
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