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Is Age Discrimination in the Workplace Legal?

Ohio employment lawThe average lifespan has significantly increased, and, as a result, many Americans and residents of greater Cleveland are working longer.

According to recent research by the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of people over the age of 65 in the workplace has doubled from 10 percent in 1985.

Why older employees are working longer

Older Americans are recognizing the benefits of working longer. According to Investopedia, workers may retire and collect Social Security at age 62, but the benefits may be reduced by as much as 30 percent. Those who delay retirement may take further advantage of:

  • Greater Social Security benefits
  • More years contributing to your 401(k)
  • Fewer years taking money from 401(k)

Unemployment is more prevalent among older people

Financial investment website The Motley Fool features an interview between Motley Fool Answers co-hosts Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp and AARP vice president of financial resilience programming Susan Weinstock. In the interview, Weinstock explains how many employers are getting away with age discrimination and how it's devastating to older workers.

"If you lose your job, it will take you double the time to find a new job [than] a younger worker," says Weinstock. "It's also disturbing because if you think about the workforce, there are more jobs available now than there are people in this country to fill them."

Worker protections in place

Workers are protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) when they turn 40. Unfortunately, proving age discrimination beyond that is more challenging than many other forms of workplace discrimination, thanks to a 2009 Supreme Court ruling in the case of 54-year-old Jack Gross. In 1971, Gross began working for FBL Financial Services, Inc. and had risen to management level by 2001. However, in 2001, every employee over the age of 50 (including Gross) was demoted.

Gross then filed a lawsuit in federal district court under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. After winning his case, the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the decision. Gross then went to the Supreme Court. In 2009, a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling against Gross overturned the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, thus, making it more difficult for older workers to prove discrimination.

Tthe Supreme Court's decision may be remedied through a new bill called the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (H.R. 1230). This bill is designed to prioritize the legal protections of older people who face discrimination or retaliation in the workplace. H.R. 1230 was introduced to the House in February 2019, but as of yet no further actions have been taken on the bill.

Why hire an attorney?

Older employees, especially those with a wealth of knowledge and experience, have a lot to offer the companies they work for. When age discrimination occurs in the workplace, it can be difficult to prove because employers can provide a different reason for firing or demoting someone.

The attorneys at Nilges Draher LLC have seen it many times. We have the experience and legal knowledge to take on these complex cases. Contact our Cleveland law office today to find out how we can help you.

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