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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Age Discrimination in Employment Law Claims are on the Rise

Despite numerous laws prohibiting age discrimination in employment, claims for unlawful termination based on age discrimination are still being filed throughout the country, and a greater number are being filed every year. Age discrimination is a particularly insidious form of discrimination because older workers may experience further discrimination when they apply for new comparable work. Persons terminated because of their age may suffer the most as a result. It is a double whammy, even when the results of a age discrimination termination lawsuit are successful for the Plaintiff.The problem is exacerbated due to age itself being the discriminatory factor. People do not become more and more Asian, more and more black, or more and more Hispanic, etc., after they are terminated but they definitely do get incontrovertibly more old. 

The New York Times reported as early as 2007 that more people are filing age discrimination every year. They attributed this to the rise of post-World War II baby boomers entering their 60's.  

It would not be news to many who work when they are older, that older persons are the target of ageist jibes in the workplace, no matter what type of job description or what level employee, from the lowest paid to the highest paid. The Los Angeles Daily News reported in 2014 that a  Los Angeles Jury awarded a 66-year-old man, Bobby Dean Nickel,  $3.2 million in compensatory damages and more than $22.8 million in punitive damages in an age discrimination case brought against his employer Staples. The jury found that the plaintiff  Bobby Dean Nickel was discriminated against, the brunt of ageist jokes and harassed because of his age by his supervisors and managers. He was hired by Corporate Express in August of 2002 and Staples Contract and Staples Inc. acquired Corporate Express in 2008. According to his Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed in March 2012, he had received all positive employment performance evaluations for the nine years prior. When Staples became his employer, according to his lawsuit, he became harassed and the target of ridicule at staff meetings. His claim stated that he was mocked with discriminatory ageist jokes at meetings and he was referred to as an "old goat" and "old coot" The jury panel finally awarded him the compensatory damages and more than $22.8 million in punitive damages for a total of over $26 million. 

The hard facts are that no one is immune from possible age discrimination, as opposed to other types of discrimination. By way of example only, a person is of the same race classification or of the same ethic origin classification at 40 years of age as he/she was at 20 years. Generally, except sometimes in the matter of transgender persons, people outwardly express the same sex/gender at age 50 as they did at age 20. However all persons, no matter what their race, color, ethnic origin, gender or sex may be,  at some point will have reached the age where employers possibly may seek to terminate them because they want a younger work force, which they sometimes euphemistically refer to as "new blood."

Age discrimination is unlike other types of discrimination, which may have the potential to occur percentagewise in the same demographic proportion of that group in the overall population. However,  virtually all persons, 100% of the population,  age over time. This may be one contributing factor as to why there is a rise in the instances of employment age discrimination claims. With the aging population of baby boomers, many who have no choice but to keep working because they lack the financial means to retire, it seems unlikely that this trend will change anytime soon.

The press has reported on many of these age discrimination claims. Forbes magazine reports that age discrimination is on the rise. At least one writer believes there are more instances of age discrimination than all other types of discrimination including sex discrimination and racial discrimination combined. 

For claims filed with the EEOC, one may view statistics of various claims from 2007- 2013. 

In New Jersey, victims of age discrimination to not have to go through the lengthier process of filing first with the EEOC and then in Federal Court,  as do the victims of age discrimination in many other states which lack the strong State anti-discrimination laws such as are in New Jersey. In New Jersey, persons wrongfully terminated because of age or who suffer because of age discrimination in their employment can file directly in State Superior Court under The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law, represents employees throughout New Jersey in complex employment discrimination lawsuits. She accepts cases from all counties in Northern, Southern, and Central New Jersey and has locations in central, western and northern New Jersey to meet with clients. If you believe that you have been discriminated against due to gender identity or other protected characteristic, such as age, disability, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or national origin, or in retaliation for reporting what you believed to be illegal acts of your employer,  she can help you. It is important to know your rights as an employee. 

Contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law, today for a free consultation. 

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