Age Discrimination in the Workplace

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Overview: Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Age discrimination in the workplace is unlawful under both Massachusetts and federal law, but many employees may not be fully aware of their rights. It may be easier to spot discriminatory practices based upon gender, disability, or national origin than biases centering on age. At a time when companies focus on efficiency and technology, you may face prejudice as younger, cheaper employees advance. Though you sense that there are unfair or discriminatory business practices at play, you may not know what to do about it.

What is Age Discrimination?

If you are age 40 years or older and have been negatively impacted by a decision that affects your employment, you may be the victim of unlawful age discrimination. An unfair practice may be grounds for an age discrimination claim if it occurs in different contexts, including:

  • During the hiring and recruiting process;
  • While you are employed; or,
  • At the time of your termination.

It is important to note that some acts that may seem motivated by bias are actually lawful despite your age. If your abilities make you unfit or unsuitable for a certain position due to the nature of the required tasks, the situation may not support a claim for age discrimination.

Examples of Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Because it can be difficult to identify situations indicating age discrimination, it is useful to review some scenarios where unfair practices may be a factor. You may be a target of age-based bias if:

  • An employer refused to hire you because they wanted a more youthful candidate;
  • You received a negative evaluation on a job performance review, and the language indicates that your age was an issue;
  • There are indications that you are being terminated because a younger employee would accept less salary;
  • You were not considered for a promotion because your employer engaged an outside hire to bring in fresh, new ideas;
  • Your company announced layoffs and all (or nearly all) of the employees that were laid off were older while less experienced workers were retained;
  • Your supervisor, manager, or other authority figure made age-based comments about you or your performance.

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Age Discrimination Under Federal and Massachusetts Law

Both the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and Massachusetts’ Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) prohibit age discrimination for workers who are aged 40 or older; however, the state version of the law arguably offers more protection. For example, FEPA makes it unlawful to aid and abet discriminatory practices, so you may have an age-based cause of action against anyone within the workplace environment. You may be able to sue a supervisor since employers are strictly liable for the actions of management under Massachusetts law

You may have a claim against companies other than your direct employer such as an external vendor or business partner. As the statute applies to an employer’s liability for its employees actions, your employer is only liable if it has knowledge of the acts of age discrimination and there is evidence that the employer did nothing to stop it.

Recent Cases Involving Age Discrimination

Some hypothetical cases regarding age discrimination in Massachusetts and throughout the US include such verdicts as:

  • A finding in favor of a job candidate where the potential employer stated in a job description that it would only consider “inexperienced” applicants;
  • A U.S. Supreme Court case that raised the bar on age discrimination cases, requiring plaintiffs to show that age was a motivating, “but for” factor in an adverse employment action; and,
  • A verdict in favor of a 49-year-old age discrimination claimant who was terminated and replaced by a 42-year-old worker, because – while the new employee was still over 40 years old – he was substantially younger.

Take Action to Protect Your Rights in an Age Discrimination Claim

If you believe you were discriminated against because of your age by a supervisor, co-worker, vendor, or another business partner of your employer, it is critical to take immediate action to protect your rights. While every case is different, age discrimination attorneys recommend that you:

  • Take notes about suspicious incidents, comments, or remarks, including the date, time, and circumstances surrounding the acts;
  • Retain copies of emails or messages that may indicate age-based bias;
  • Review an employee manual that covers your employer’s policies about filing a claim or complaint; and,
  • Talk to your company’s human resources department, if possible.

You should also consult with an attorney that has specific experience in federal and Massachusetts law on age discrimination. There are certain requirements for filing a claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and/or the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). For one, it is necessary to exhaust your administrative remedies before you can file an official lawsuit against your employer for age discrimination.

In addition, keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations that applies to age-based discrimination claims. You must file with the MCAD and/or EEOC within 300 days of the date you experienced age discrimination in the workplace.

Age Discrimination Links & Resources

Age Discrimination – U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) resource providing information about age discrimination.

Facts About Age Discrimination – EEOC web page explaining details of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA).

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 – The original text from the ADEA as provided by the EEOC. Stated goal: “to promote employment of older persons based on their ability rather than age; to prohibit arbitrary age discrimination in employment; to help employers and workers find ways of meeting problems arising from the impact of age on employment.”

The Past and Future of the Age and Discrimination in Employment Act – The National Bureau of Economic Research provides thoughts on the ADEA and its future.

10 Things You Should Know About Age Discrimination – AARP article with helpful facts about age discrimination.

Department of Labor: Age Discrimination – Resources provided by the Department of Labor regarding age discrimination.

Age Discrimination and Hiring Older Workers – Publication from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco regarding the prevalence of age discrimination.

Employment Discrimination on the Basis of Age – Information provided by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD),  for Massachusetts as well as nationally, about age discrimination and the corresponding laws.

804 CMR 03.00 – The Massachusetts state law against age discrimination.

Employment Discrimination Guidelines – Reference for definitions of terminology as used in the state law against age discrimination.

United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website. “The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”

Statistics on Age Discrimination

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • In the United States, one out of every five people are age 55 or older which accounts for roughly 33 million people.
  • 64% of the workforce has been a victim of or has witnessed age discrimination in the workplace.
  • 58% of the workforce believe age-related discrimination begins against employees in their 50’s.
  • In 2013, more than 21,000 complaints for age discrimination were filed with the EEOC. In 1997, there were just over 15,000 complaints filed.
  • On average, it takes someone age 55 or over three months longer to find a job than a younger person.
  • Only 29% of older workers that are close to retirement say that they either have enough savings to retire or are very close to having enough savings.
  • The percentage of older workers who say that they plan to work for several more years, so they can retire in a comfortable manner is 29%.
  • 16% of retirees say that they may have to return to work because they can’t make ends meet with their retirement.
  • During the 2017 Fiscal Year, the EEOC received 18,376 charges under the ADEA.[1]
  • There were 22,430 resolutions reached via the EEOC/ADEA in the 2017 Fiscal Year.[2]
  • There was $90.1 Million in monetary benefits in 2017 resulting from the resolution of age discrimination charges with the EEOC.[3]
  • Based on a study by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco[4]:
    • As women get older, they receive a 47% lower callback rate for administrative jobs and 36% lower callback rate in sales jobs.
    • As men get older, they receive a 30% lower callback rate for sales jobs.
  • The EEOC received 110 charges of Age Discrimination for Massachusetts in the 2017 fiscal year.[5]
    • The age discrimination charges made to the EEOC in Massachusetts made up 23.4% of the total claims for all categories received by the EEOC in Massachusetts.[6]
  • The MCAD received 527 complaints of age discrimination during 2017. This made up 11% of the total complaints the MCAD received for the year.[7]

[1] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/adea.cfm

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.frbsf.org/economic-research/publications/economic-letter/2017/february/age-discrimination-and-hiring-older-workers/

[5] https://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/charges_by_state.cfm#centercol

[6] Ibid.

[7] https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2018/04/06/2017-mcad-annual-report-4-1-2018.pdf

A Massachusetts Age Discrimination Lawyer Can Help

At Rodman Employment Law, our attorneys realize that age discrimination laws can be intimidating, especially when you rely on your employment for income and personal satisfaction. However, you do not have to face unlawful, age-based practices alone. Our team has the legal experience necessary to advise you on your age discrimination claim, backed by more than 70 years of combined experience serving clients in Boston, Newton, MA, and throughout the Greater Boston Area. Our lawyers will fight for your rights because no one should endure bias due to the date of their birth.

For more information on age discrimination cases under Massachusetts and federal law, please contact the Boston-based litigation law firm of Rodman Employment Law. Our legal team can assist with all aspects of a case based upon unfair business practices, from gathering evidence to filing with the required agencies to pursuing a lawsuit in court against an employer.

Because we are a boutique firm, we can offer personalized, flexible representation that you expect, along with more than seven decades of experience. To schedule a consultation regarding your age discrimination claim or any other employment matter, please call (617) 820 5250 to reach our office.



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