In today’s blog, I address the law surrounding forced retirements, age discrimination and wrongful termination. So, if you have been asking, “Can the company that I work for force me to retire even if I’m not ready?” – then this is the blog you have been waiting for.
How do I prove an age discrimination claim against my employer?
Best Age Discrimination Lawyer Answer: Under federal law, age discrimination in employment is made unlawful by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”). There are two ways to establish a claim for age discrimination under the ADEA – either by direct or indirect evidence. Direct evidence, while rare, is when the employer makes clear by statements or actions that the reason for the termination of other adverse employment action is because of the employee’s age (being over 40). (Best Law Read: What Is An Adverse Employment Action?).
When an employer is not brash enough to indicate age is the reason for the firing, the law provides employees the ability to prove age discrimination by a shifting burden mechanism. First, to establish a prima facie case of discrimination under ADEA, an employee must present evidence that he or she: (1) was at least forty years old; (2) was satisfactorily performing the job; (3) discharged or had another adverse employment action taken against him or her; and (4) either replaced by a substantially younger employee with equal or inferior qualifications or discharged under circumstances otherwise giving rise to an inference of age discrimination. (Best Law Read: What does prima facie mean?). Importantly, the substantially younger employee can still be in the protected class. For example, replacing a 63-year-old employee with a 47-year-old will satisfy this requirement even though both are over the 40-year-old ADEA threshold.
Once the employee has done so, the employer must state a non-discriminatory reason for the termination or adverse action, such as bad performance or attendance issues. This is not a heavy burden.
The employee then gets the opportunity to show that the employer’s stated reason is pretext, which basically means that the reason given was untrue, did not actually motivate the employer, or was insufficient to warrant the action taken. (Best Law Read: Employment Discrimination Question: What Is Pretext? ). If the jury believes that the employee has shown pretext by a greater weight of the evidence, then the employee was won the age discrimination case via the indirect evidence route.
What is an example of age discrimination?
Best Wrongful Termination Lawyer Answer: Let’s take a look at what happened in Rutherford County, Tennessee. Employees Mike Nunley, 71, James R. “Randy” White, 58, and Joe Haffner, also 58, sued the County for age discrimination and wrongful termination.
Nunley had been the founding director of the EMS for 45 years and oversaw an EMS staff of 175. In the 45 years that Nunley worked for the employer, he had never given any verbal or written reprimands, suspensions nor any other type of disciplinary actions. Per the lawsuit, at a March 20 meeting with Nunley, Mayor Bill Ketron told Nunley that he was too old for the job and instructed him to submit a retirement notice, “If you do not retire, you can resign, or I am going to fire you.” Without waiting for a response, Ketron emailed all county employees informing them that Nunley was retiring as April 15. Nunley still had no intent to retire.
Obviously, the age reference and forced retirement are direct and clear evidence of age discrimination. The lack of any retirement notification from Nunley makes the emailed stated reason for termination patently false.
At best, the employer was left with saying that Nunley was no longer qualified for the job (despite the lack of any discipline or documented criticism). But then Ketron had the County pass a resolution recognizing Nunley for his continuing leadership, success, dedication and overall excellent performance. Well, that cuts the legs out of any argument that Nunley was no longer qualified.
White and Haffner had 35 and 37 tenures respectively when they were called into Ketron’s office and summarily fired on April 1. Firing a group of age-protected employees for no reason also sends up a bunch of red flags.
To cap everything off, the employer replaced Nunley with Kevin Lauer, who is in his 40s.
In my humble opinion, this is a very clear case of age discrimination that the employer should have immediately attempted to resolve. What did they do? They opted to defend the case in front of a jury.
What is an age discrimination case worth?
Best Employees’ Rights Attorney Answer: Every case is different and based on a slew of different factors that you should discuss with a qualified employment law lawyer. In this case, Nunley was being paid a salary of about $109,000 while Haffner and White each earned almost to $83,000.
After listening to all of the evidence, the jury awarded the employees over $1 million in back pay, including $413,521 to Nunley and about $300,000 to each Haffner and White. In addition, the jury also awarded the three employees $950,000 for humiliation and embarrassment damages, of which Nunley received $350,000 while White and Haffner each got $300,000. (Best Law Read: What Kind Of Damages Can You Get For Wrongful Termination And Discrimination?; What Damages Can I Get In Employment Wrongful Termination Cases? Best Lawyer Answer!). But, as they say on TV, wait there’s more. The three employees will not only be able to recover their attorneys’ fees, which should tack on about another $200,000, but also the Court will determine the appropriate amount of front pay, which will be about four more years (which would result in about the same award as the back pay). (Best Law Read: Can I Get Front Pay After Being Wrongfully Fired?)
To prevent you from pulling out a calculator, the total tab looks to be about $3.15 million. Of course, that does not include what the employer spent to defend this clear age discrimination and wrongful terminations. (Best Law Read: What Is The Cost To Defend An Employment Lawsuit?; Paying A Lot To Defend A Wrongful Termination Claim Does Not Mean You’ll Win).
What should I do if I was fired for being too old?
Best Ohio Age Discrimination Law Firm Answer: 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 someone younger than you, you may have an age discrimination claim under Ohio, Michigan or North Carolina 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 Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm as quickly as possible to schedule a free and confidential consultation. (Read: What is the Spitz No Fee Guarantee?). Call our wrongful termination lawyers right now.
This employment law website is an advertisement. The materials available at the top of the age discrimination blog page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking “Can I be forced to retire if I don’t want to?”, “I’m being discriminated against by my younger manager”, or “How do I sue for age discrimination”, your best option is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to any age discrimination claim questions or any particular employment law issue that you may have. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship for your employment law needs. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.