Recently, a prominent university settled an age discrimination case with two women, highlighting the need for greater training and awareness concerning age bias. The women set forth several allegations in their discrimination lawsuit, including that an administrator made disparaging age-related comments, while promoting younger, less experienced workers.
According to court documents, the women had helped established the English as a second language program in the mid-80’s, and consistently received positive performance reviews. Nonetheless, they were passed over in favor of younger workers. The women were confused as to why and gave the university the benefit of the doubt. However, an email surfaced with disparaging age-related comments about the entire department. In the years following, many of the teachers felt like they were being forced out of their jobs as younger colleagues received preferential treatment including better assignments and office space, while more experienced instructors had to share open work stations and computers. Older workers were also referred to as “millstones” and “dead wood.”
According to reports, more than 20 older staffers were “squeezed out” of their jobs over the course of a few short years, and the women who spearheaded the department ended up resigning earlier than they had originally wanted.
The women lodged a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found “reasonable cause” that discrimination in violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) had occurred. The ADEA makes it illegally to discriminate against workers older than 40 in terms of employment, including hiring, firing and promoting. The women proceeded with a federal lawsuit and earlier this summer, the university settled with the women, and agreed to pay significant back wages and damages. The university also agreed to implement training to avoid and prevent discrimination in the future. Anti-discrimination advocates believe this case is a major victory in combating age discrimination for workers employed by state and local government employers, and underscores the need for all employers to take age discrimination as seriously as other forms of prohibited work place discrimination.
For more information or if you believe that you have suffered any form of employment discrimination, please contact the experienced Atlanta workplace discrimination attorneys at Buckley Beal LLP for an immediate case evaluation.