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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Employees in Their 40's Worry about Looking Too Old and Fear Firing Due to Employer’s Age Bias

A person should not need botox treatments to keep their job. Yet persons may feel the intense pressure by their employers to look young or risk being terminated. Women and men in their 40's sometimes resort to plastic surgery but it may not make any difference to the employer who wants only youth in the workforce. Age bias lawsuits brought by persons in their 40's is nothing new. Some of these cases seem sensational because either the Plaintiff or Defendant is a celebrity well-known to the public such as in the case of the popular veteran news anchor Sue Manteris, but many are more typical workers, such as individual secretaries, waitresses and salespersons.      

Not only persons in their 50's and up are currently filing age discrimination claims. In December of 2014, a forty-one year-old single mother of two filed an age discrimination and harassment lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California against her employer who is an online real estate company. In her complaint she alleges that the company discriminates against its female employees over the age of 40.

The woman was hired as a saleswoman for the real estate company earlier in 2014. In her complaint, she alleges that the company unlawfully terminated her because of her age and because of an injury sustained in a car accident. In addition, she also alleges that several co-workers harassed her in the company's Orange County, California office.

She alleged in paragraphs 3-4 of her filed complaint that upon starting work there, she was quickly exposed to the company's "frat house" and "boys club culture" where " binge drinking and the willingness to participate in lewd discourse was rewarded by lucrative assignments" in the form of the company's "managers routing incoming calls for potential sales leads". She alleges that because of her refusal to participate in such frat house culture and lewd discourse that her sales manager would make comments to her during the course of her work day such as "are you too old to close?" and "try to keep up with us." She alleges that it was commonplace at the company  office for managers to inform employees, including Ms. Young, that if they do not drink the company "kool-aid"* there would be no opportunity for career advancement.

This case has sparked interest in the press, not only in Orange County, California, where it was filed,and in publications* dealing with real estate news and business news, but also in Time Inc. Fortune, and CNET.

              Being a celebrity does not insulate one from age bias on the job. Many television viewers miss veteran reporter Sue Manteris on the NBC owned KSNV-TV station the Las Vegas television station where she worked for 22 years before she was terminated. She claimed she was fired after she was  40 years of age because of her age and that her employer thought she was too old to read the news. She filed a lawsuit and said as reported in the Daily Mail, she had to take  legal action because it was fight she could not run away from. 

The reason the employer gave for her contract not being renewed was to save money. This is an excuse commonly given by many employers who have age bias when they terminate a person or refuse to renew their contract. 

Manteris, claimed she was targeted because NBC considered her too old to read the news, although she was only in her mid-40's. She filed suit in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas against Valley Broadcasting Co., who was owner of KSNV Channel 3, and the News Director, and General Manager and others.  

On April 2, 2012, Judge Gloria Navarro put the lawsuit on hold as reported in Vegas, Inc. because her employment contract had an arbitration clause which stipulated that all disputes arising out of her employment had to be resolved through arbitration and not litigation and ordered Manteris to resolve the lawsuit against the station through arbitration which is private. 

The Silicon Valley culture is notorious for its brutal age bias in the workplace.

However, no one working in any other state is immune. In New Jersey, Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City was sued by nine of its cocktail waitresses as reported in who alleged they were fired for looking too old as first reported in 2011.

The suit was brought by longtime employees of the Hotel who when management made a change in their costume uniforms, the Hotel required them to have their pictures taken through a modeling agency in skimpy provocative flapper type costumes. The Press of Atlantic City reported that the employer considered the new costumes as a critical part of the company’s rebranding into a Roaring '20s theme. Some of the waitresses felt degraded and humiliated by the new costumes but agreed to wear them in order to keep employed, however the older women lost their jobs when the modeling agency representing the resort did not send them to work .The lawsuits claimed Resorts fired the older women after a modeling agency representing the casino concluded they didn't look good in the revealing costumes. One of the claimants, who had worked at Resorts since it opened on May 26, 1978 said that she and other co-workers had to audition in the new uniforms while pretending to serve drinks to supervisors who judged them on their appearance.

One worker claimed the whole application process was just a ruse because the employer knew ahead of time that the decision had been made that only the younger women would be retained.

The union representing the workers originally maintained that the Resorts was using the costumes as a way to weed out the workers who are middle-aged  while the casino pursues a younger customer base. The president of the Local representing the workers was quoted as saying  "I can’t think of anything I've dealt with that was more disgusting and dehumanizing than what they've done to these women,” 

More employees filed suits regarding age discrimination against the company and in October of 2014, forty former Resorts Casino Hotel cocktail waitresses settled their age discrimination suit.

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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