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California Age Discrimination Lawsuits Pose Many Challenges

June 14, 2013

The president of Rutgers University was fervently working to tamp down public ire over alleged coaching abuses when he hired an administrator to serve as his chief of staff.
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But as it turned out, that administrator was in the midst of his own legal troubles, having been sued by a handful of long-term employees in their 50s and 60s alleging systematic discrimination on the basis of their age. These actions, the plaintiffs allege, ultimately forced them to retire.

Los Angeles Employment Discrimination Lawyer
Vincent Howard of HOWARD LAW understands that those who worked at the university were stunned to learn of the administrator's promotion, given the severity of the allegations against him.

Whether those will be proven in court remains to be seen. What we do know is that cases of age discrimination can present some uphill battles in the courtroom - but they certainly aren't impossible, particularly if you have a strong legal team at your side.

In fact, the number of age-related discrimination claims comprise an increasing number of cases filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in recent years. From 1997 through 2007, we saw an average of 16,000 to 19,000 age discrimination claims each year. Since 2008, however, that number has spiked to somewhere between 23,000 and 25,000 annually.

Per federal law, it is illegal for an employer with 20 or more workers to discriminate against employees who are older than 40 on the basis of their age. However, some recent court cases have made winning such a claim a little tougher.

In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Gross v. FBL that it must be proven that age was the sole reason for the discrimination that occurred. Prior that ruling, a business that based its actions on the discrimination as well as other factors could be successfully sued. Now, plaintiffs have to prove that discrimination is the motivating factor in the negative actions taken against the employee.

That said, there have been a fair number of successes.

In a recent case out of Hawaii, a 54-year-old woman won a nearly $195,000 judgment in U.S. District Court after her termination. The firing had been preceded with comments made by the firm's owner, describing her to other employees as looking like "a bag of bones" and sounding "old on the telephone." It was comments like this that bolstered her age discrimination case and allowed her to win.

Unfortunately, most employers aren't that bold or blatant in their discrimination. They know how to cover their tracks, even when age discrimination is indeed the motivating factor. That can make proving the case a little tougher.

In some cases, depending on the evidence, it may be beneficial to work with your attorney to make a persuasive argument to your former employer to negotiate a financial settlement prior to trial. Many companies don't want the negative attention that an age discrimination lawsuit can bring, and might be eager to work with you to resolve the issue.

In other cases, a lawsuit is your best form of recourse. Consulting with an experienced employment lawyer can help you determine what action might be in your best interest.

Los Angeles Employment Attorney VINCENT HOWARD at HOWARD LAW can help. Call toll-free at 1-800-872-5925 or send us a message online.

Additional Resources:
Chief of Staff at Rutgers Facing Discrimination Lawsuit, June 3, 2013, By Steve Eder, The New York Times

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