There is a common misconception among many New York employers that the best way to stay competitive in the market is to “get younger.” Perhaps this is an unfortunate side effect of a media culture that exalts tech-based companies where employees and even senior managers tend to be under the age of 40, but whatever the reason, age discrimination is not simply a poor business practice. It is also illegal.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) specifically prohibits employers from setting “arbitrary age limits regardless of potential for job performance” or replacing older workers simply as a cost-cutting measure. Among other things, this means your employer cannot fire you because you have reached a certain age. Nor can your employer cite the desirability of having a younger employee in your position as grounds for termination.
EEOC Pursues Age Discrimination Claim Against Brooklyn Company
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is charged with enforcing the ADEA and other federal anti-discrimination laws. The EEOC frequently acts on behalf of older employees–the ADEA expressly protects individuals who are at least 40 years old–to remedy illegal discrimination. But employers are often not eager to admit they broke the law, and a successful age discrimination case may take years.
For instance, in September 2015 the EEOC filed an age discrimination complaint in federal court against a Brooklyn-based employer. The case remains in pretrial discovery two years later. Recently, the judge overseeing the case rejected a number of “affirmative defenses” raised by the defendant.
In brief, the EEOC has accused the defendant of firing two employees solely because of their age. The two ex-employees worked as salespeople. Indeed, the EEOC said they were the two oldest employees in the sales department, at 66 and 64 respectively. In January 2014, the EEOC alleges, a manager informed both men they were being “discharged.” A district manager allegedly told one of the salesmen point-blank he was being fired “because of his age” and the company's general manager wanted “to move the sales force in a different direction by hiring younger workers.” Both employees were “encouraged” to resign, but when refused to do so, they were terminated.
As mentioned above, the case remains pending. The defendant maintained that the EEOC “failed to satisfy the statutory prerequisites” prior to filing its lawsuit. The defendant further claimed to be the victim of “retaliation” because it “filed a complaint against the EEOC with the Office of the Inspector General” related to a purported conflict of interest. The judge presiding over the case rejected these allegations and struck the defendant's affirmative defenses.
Are You the Victim of “Subtle” Age Discrimination?
Age discrimination is not always as blatant as the scenario alleged in the EEOC's lawsuit. A manager may not simply come out and tell you that you are being replaced by a younger worker. But older employees may notice that the company disproportionately favors younger colleagues for promotions and benefits. Such subtle acts may be circumstantial evidence of age discrimination. If you have such evidence, it is critical to speak with a qualified New York employment law attorney who can review your situation and outline your legal options. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar in New York City or Long Island today if you need advice from an age discrimination lawyer.