An employee often faces an uphill battle in proving that a termination was based on age discrimination, rather than for "cause." But the fight can be won.
Earlier this week, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that that a company had violated the federal prohibition against age discrimination in the workplace -- the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). The EEOC based its ruling on evidence that included age-related name calling and the company's apparently pretextual rule changes, which made past attendance and disciplinary violations grounds for firing.
After receiving the ruling, the company entered into a consent decree with the workers, awarding them a total of $400,000. The company also agreed to train its managers and supervisors on equal employment practices and to impose a company policy against age discrimination.
If you believe you are facing discrimination related to age in the workplace, you need an attorney on your side who can advise you on your available options. For example, if you have received a notice of termination, an attorney might be able to negotiate with your employer to help you keep your job, rather than bringing a lawsuit.
If legal action is required, an attorney can also advise you on the evidence you will need to prove that you were treated unfairly or terminated for discriminatory reasons disguised as "cause." Making up new rules and then firing people over the age of 40 for offenses that weren't previously a basis for termination might constitute pretext for age discrimination. Other evidence of an ADEA violation might include unfair terms, conditions, or privileges of employment pertaining to hiring, firing, compensation and benefits based on age-related criteria.
Source: Forbes, "Firing Old People to Trim Workforce Costs Trucking Company $400,000," Victoria Pynchon, May 14, 2012