As the median age of the workforce steadily rises, age discrimination in employment is becoming an increasingly important issue. Unfortunately, age discrimination occurs with surprising frequency and many employees—and employers, for that matter—do not fully understand an employee’s rights under the applicable federal and state laws.
Victims of age discrimination can suffer many types of losses, both financial and emotional. The loss of a job can be devastating for older individuals in today’s economic environment, as it can be difficult to find a new position, resulting in a significant lapse in income. In addition, being replaced by someone younger can be demeaning and result in a loss of dignity.
If you believe your employer has discriminated against you due to your age, you should discuss your legal rights with an experienced employment discrimination attorney. At the Dolman Law Group, we work to hold employers in and around Clearwater fully accountable for any unlawful actions including age discrimination. Call us at 727-451-6900 or contact us online today to speak with a member of our legal team for free.
Laws Protecting Employees from Age Discrimination
Both the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA) and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) provide protections for employees against discrimination or harassment based on age. The FCRA protects employees who work for companies with 15 or more employees. The ADEA specifically protects individuals over the age of 40 who work at companies with 20 or more employees. These laws apply to most employers, including:
- Government employers
- Private employers
- Labor organizations
- Employment agencies
- These laws prohibit employers from basing certain types of decisions on an employee’s age, including:
- Promotion or demotion
- Pay increase or decrease
- Denial of benefits
Many employers may be tempted to terminate older employees, who have higher salaries, for younger, entry-level employees who demand significantly less compensation. However, termination based solely on a person’s age is against the law. Similarly, if two applicants apply for a position, an employer cannot base a hiring decision solely on the age of the applicants. Employers also may never offer certain benefits to younger employees, yet deny them for an older employee due to the concern that benefits for an older employee may be more expensive.
Furthermore, in most cases, employers are prohibited from targeting job advertisements at a certain age. The exception to this prohibition is if age is a “bona fide occupational qualification” that is reasonably necessary for the regular business operation. For example, if a movie is casting a 20-year-old character, the company can target the ad at appropriately aged individuals. However, a company cannot advertise that it is looking for young sales people just because company executives think younger candidates would be more attractive in the sales force.
In some situations, bona fide occupational qualifications may justify mandatory retirement as well. For example, the federal government requires airline pilots to have a mandatory retirement age of 60 to 65 and courts have found this does not constitute age discrimination because it addresses real safety concerns. However, other companies cannot require employees to retire at a certain age simply because they are getting older absent bona fide safety concerns.
If a company refused to hire you or fired you simply because of your age, you should seek help from a qualified legal professional as soon as possible.
Harassment, Retaliation, and Constructive Discharge
Often, age discrimination cases are substantially more complex than just an employer firing an older employee and hiring someone younger. The law also prohibits harassment and retaliation based on age. Older employees may experience teasing, age-related jokes, or other potentially offensive comments, actions, or gestures about their age. If these actions rise to the level of a hostile work environment, it constitutes unlawful harassment. If an employer knows—or should know—about the harassment and fails to take action to stop it, the victim can take legal action against the employer.
In addition, the law prevents employers from retaliating against employees if they complain of harassment or discrimination, or if they cooperate with an investigation regarding such unlawful conduct. Retaliation can take any form of adverse employment action, including:
- Demotion or refusal of a deserved promotion
- Transfer to a less desirable location or position
- Reduction of hours or change of schedule
- Disciplinary action
- False reports of misconduct or decreased performance
- Pay decrease or refusal of a deserved increase
- Harassment or allowing harassment to occur
If you rightfully complain of unlawful discrimination, you should never have to deal with retaliation and adverse action from your employer. Inform a lawyer right away if experience any form of adverse employer action after reporting discrimination.
Sometimes, harassment or retaliation becomes so severe and pervasive that an employee can no longer stand to work at that company and quits. Although your employer may claim you quit voluntarily to avoid allegations of discrimination or wrongful termination, the company still may be liable under the legal theory of constructive discharge. Constructive discharge means a reasonable person would have been driven to quit under the circumstances, such that the employee may hold the employer liable for losses despite having voluntarily terminated their employment.
Recovering for age discrimination claims can be complex. Employers will almost always try to justify the actions taken for reasons besides age. However, our attorneys can identify when the employer’s explanations are merely pretextual and fight for your right to recover just compensation.
Contact a Clearwater Age Discrimination Law Firm for a Free Case Evaluation
At the Dolman Law Group, we firmly believe that no employee should experience age discrimination under any circumstances. We can meet with you for free and evaluate your rights under Florida and federal law. We represent victims of discrimination throughout the Clearwater area. If you suspect you were the victim of age discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, please do not hesitate to call 727-451-6900 or contact us online today.