Category: Age Discrimination


Discrimination vs. Disparagement in the Workplace

Does it seem like your boss is always picking on you? For some reason, you get written up for things that your co-workers do without consequence? Maybe your supervisor never approves your vacation time requests? Or do you feel like you were passed over for a promotion, though you were the most qualified candidate? Feeling singled out may lead you to believe you are being discriminated against. Discrimination is broadly defined as “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex”. However, in a legal environment, discrimination is defined a bit differently. In order for the treatment you are experiencing to be considered bona fide discrimination, it MUST be based on your gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or some other protected class. To say that your boss “just doesn’t like me” with no prior indication that their dislike is based on a protected attribute does not equal discrimination.

You may be asking, what is a protected class? “Protected class” refers to specific characteristics rather than all people with that characteristic. Per anti-discrimination laws, protected classes include race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and age (40 and older). People sometimes make the mistake of thinking that because they possess a protected attribute, they are automatically protected from termination for any reason at all. This is not the case. For example, a lay-off of 50 employees includes someone that is 60 years old. They are not automatically protected from termination, though they are over 40 years old. However, if the employer terminated 50 people all over the age of 40, there may be cause to believe they were all let go due to their age, which would be age discrimination.

Another common scenario where one might think they have been “discriminated against”, is after being passed over for a promotion. You begin to search for answers – why didn’t you get the promotion? What could it possibly be? It can’t be your performance…you always receive great reviews. Nor can it be your experience level, as you have been with the company longer than most other employees. So what could it be? While the situation is unfortunate, and maybe unfair, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s illegal. You would want to look back and think, do I have any real evidence to show that this was due to my (age, race, religion, etc.)? Have you ever heard any comments regarding the particular protected class you believe they are discriminating against? Whether the comments were aimed at you or someone else, whether it was serious or a “joke”, they can be very telling. Have you noticed a pattern of this happening to the same group of people in the past? If not, there probably were other factors that led to the decision of who received the promotion.

Often, people believe favoritism and discrimination are akin. Unfortunately, they usually aren’t. Favoritism is of course, frowned upon, and unquestionably bad management. But once again, unless the favoritism is based on certain characteristics, it isn’t discrimination. It’s one thing for an employer to show favor for employees that they, for example, find funny. They are always laughing with these employees and seem to give them better hours, duties, etc. because they just “like them more”, whether or not these employees are actually the hardest working or most deserving of praise. Sense of humor and ability for social interaction is not a protected class. Therefore, if your boss treats you differently because they don’t find you as humorous, it is not discrimination. However, it is entirely different for an employer to give all of the best shifts/promotions/benefits to only white employees. Because race is a protected class, this would be an example of legitimate discrimination. Another example of actual discrimination is if the boss asks everyone to pray out loud every morning. You refuse because it does not align with your religious beliefs. Afterwards, your boss seems to single you out or treat you punitively. As religion is in fact a protected class, this would be considered discrimination, and you may be able to file a claim against the employer.

If after reading this you believe you have been discriminated against in the workplace, contact our office. We can evaluate the situation and see if there is a potential case that we can assist you with.





Age Discrimination—Statistics Don’t Lie

Different industries have their own signature labor code violations that you often hear about in the news. Tech industries are often accused of gender discrimination and sexism. Food service institutions are routinely served with wage and hour lawsuits. Fashion retailers see sexual harassments claims from both employees and customers. The often forgotten prejudice in labor law, however, is age discrimination.

In California, the law protects employees over the age of 40 from age discrimination. However, high wage earners are not a protected class. Since those over the age of 40 are usually the employees who are most seasoned and therefore paid more, it is easy for a company to label an age fueled termination as a “lay-off” based on finances.

Though baby boomers make up a good portion of the current workforce, median ages in many industries and companies reflect a much younger work force. Is it coincidence? Or are older workers targeted in an unassuming, inconspicuous way? Payscale compiled some interesting statistics based on company and industry about ages and wages.

The median age for a Google employee is 29 years old, with median salary at $107,000. On average, an employee will stay with Google for 1.1 years. Other companies with young employees are Target (28), Office Depot (27), and eBay Inc. (30) with tenures of 2.2 years, 2.0 years, and 1.9 respectively. Only one company surveyed out of the hundreds, reflected a median age of 50—Kodak.

If you feel you have been discriminated against based on age, call an Aegis attorney.

Source: Payscale & Fox Business

Seasons 52 Restaurant Did Not Want Seasoned Employees

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued Seasons 52, a restaurant chain that is part of the Darden Restaurant Group (also the owners of Olive Garden and Red Lobster) for age discrimination.

A class of plaintiffs allege that the chain refused to hire prospective employees over the age of 40 during new restaurant opens. Older applicants were not to be hired for the “front of the house” or the “back of the house” positions (i.e. servers, bartenders, hosts, etc.).

Older applicants who were denied the position and told they were “too experienced” and the company was looking for “fresh” employees. Some applicants were even told that Seasons 52 “wasn’t looking for old white guys.”

This case originated in Miami but the class applies nationwide to applicants who felt they were discriminated against the hiring process. There are currently forty three Seasons 52 Restaurants throughout 18 states, 35 of which opened since 2010 and may be subject to this lawsuit.

Here is the full EEOC press release if you would like to read more or possibly get involved.


49ers Hitting a Bad Luck Streak

The Super Bowl hopefuls has suffered an off field set back. Two former employees of the San Francisco 49ers filed suit against the team, alleging age discrimination. 2014 proved to be a litigious year for the NFL, and 2015 isn’t letting up on lawsuits either.

According the initial complaint for the lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege the 49ers violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) by discriminating against them on the basis of age. The suit names the CEO of the team, Jed York, as a defendant as well.

The two plaintiffs, Anthony Lozano, a facilities manager, and Keith Yanagi, a Director of Video Operations, were both suddenly fired in 2011. For Lozano, he had a stellar employment record, received praises from Jed York, and was named employee of the month just a year prior. Upon his termination, 49ers Chief of Staff informed Lozano that his lay off had nothing to do with job performance but rather the team was “going in a different direction.” When asked to explain what that meant, the team had no reply. He was 56 at termination.

For Yanagi, he worked for the team for over 25 years, always receiving great reviews. In an interview, the HR manager claimed she had no idea why Yanagi had been terminated, but later retracted her statement, claiming it was for “performance” reasons. Plaintiff was 59 at the time of his termination.

Just prior to the terminations, the 49ers hired a new Chief Strategy Officer, Gideon Yu, who sought to “rebrand” the team as a technology company much like those located in Silicon Valley. Yu began using the term “legacy employees,” a derogatory term used in the Silicon Valley to describe older employees. Furthermore, older employees were often subjected to comments about graying hair and questions about how much longer they intended to stay working.

Yu allegedly created and executed a systematic campaign to terminate older employees to make room for younger employees who “did a lot of cool things before they turned 40 years old, and they don’t want to go play golf six days a week.” When asked to choose between candidates for the same position, Jed York is reported to have said, “Let’s go with the younger one.”

Defendants are further accused of masking pertinent information about group terminations in order to skirt obligations to provide something of benefit to employees which they were not already entitled. This is mandated by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act.

Middle-Age Is The New ‘Old’

age clockJust a few years ago, researchers determined that almost a third of all workers in their mid-fifties and beyond faced some kind of discrimination at work.  This was true even though the Age Discrimination In Employment Act (“ADEA”) was enacted by the federal government almost forty years ago.  California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) likewise aims to protect employees against age discrimination, but sadly also has not eliminated discriminatory practices.

Even more shockingly, the age at which employees are likely to face an uphill battle is lower than previous researchers described.  A recent study showed that workers 45 and older had significantly more trouble finding new employment after layoffs and terminations than those just a few years younger.  In another study, it took workers 44 and older an average of five to six weeks longer to find new jobs than similar, younger workers.

You may not feel old at 44 or 45, but apparently some companies see you that way.  Research in Australia has shown a definite bias about older workers, including stereotypes like being bad at using or learning new technology, being difficult to work with, and being more likely to get sick simply because of age.

If you are a victim of age bias or discrimination, what can you do? California’s FEHA may not have eliminated age discrimination, but it does give you rights and protections a lawyer can help you enforce. If you have experienced age discrimination, contact an Aegis attorney to see if we can help.