Age Discrimination

8 August 2016

The Introduction: Age discrimination in the workplace is more prevalent than many would care to believe. Older workers tend to be more expensive and take more time off from work, with this in mind it is not surprising that age discrimination has become one of the most common forms of discrimination in employment. While this form of discrimination is technically prohibited by statute, it is also by far the most difficult to enforce. Age discrimination differs from most discrimination laws in the fact that it must be proven that age was the dominant factor as opposed to simply being a factor.

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In this paper I will analyze the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 by exploring its history, and analyzing four unique cases filed under the ADEA. 1 These cases will consist of one general age discrimination case, one that shows the difference between state and federal enforcement, a supreme court case that discusses state sovereignty, and finally a case from which the prima facie test that most age discrimination cases use in transferring the burden of proof. Finally I will conclude with opinions on the effectiveness of the law.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) was put in place to prevent the discrimination of aging workers by employers, by providing protective class status to both men and women in the workplace over the age of 40 years old. Similar to most labor laws and those under Title VII, the enforcement of the ADEA was the responsibility of the EEOC and followed the same procedures as the previously mentioned laws. Petitioners must first obtain a right a right to sue letter from the EEOC, before filing suit. Upon the receipt of the right to sue letter from the EEOC the plaintiff must then file their compliant within 90 days.

History: The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was introduced after a recommendation from President Lyndon B. Johnson after a secretary of labor statistical report that indicated that age discrimination for older workers was problem. Analysis showed that while unemployment for older workers was less than for younger workers, the period of time that the unemployed over a certain age remained unemployed was significantly longer than those in younger age brackets. In age discrimination cases, similar to other discrimination cases the compliant has the burden of establishing a prima facie case.

Most age discrimination cases use prior case McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, a racial discrimination case from 1973 as a comparison in meeting prima facie requirements. In order to meet prima facie requirements and shift the burden of proof to the employer the petitioner must show (i) they belong to the protected class, in this case over 40 years of age; (ii) that they applied for and were qualified for the job; (iii) that despite their qualifications they were rejected; (iv) and after their rejection the company continued to seek applicants with similar qualifications.

If the plaintiff is able to establish a prima facie case the burden of proof then shifts to the defendant to provide a rebuttal as to why the plaintiff’s age was not a deciding factor, which then shifts the burden of proof back to the plaintiff to refute the defendants defense. Case Analysis: Robert R. Monaco, v. American General Assurance Company: One important and recent case filed under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act is the case of Robert R. Monaco, v. American General Assurance Company.

In the case Monaco is laid off from his position as Vice President of the Eastern Region for American General Assurance Company after their purchase of United States Life and upon a companywide decision to reduce their workforce as a result of eliminating a line of business that was not profitable. 4 In 1999, Monaco was 53 years old when he was laid off from his position as Vice President of the Eastern Region of the company. Company management did not fill the position instead they assigned Monaco’s responsibilities to Robert Shaw vice president that covered the west region.

Robert Shaw was 55 years old at the time. In 2000, AGAC hired Tom Mckellar who assumed Monaco’s former duties in addition to other senior management duties. Monaco filed suit claiming age discrimination in 2001. 5 Monaco’s case show a unique aspect of the age discrimination laws in the United States in that many states have differing requirements of proof. Monaco’s case was tried in New Jersy under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), under which Monaco contended that prima facie requirements are less rigid in their application.

While it was established that Monaco met the first three requirements of a prima facie case the court granted the defendants motion for summary judgment because Monaco was unable to meet the fourth condition and prove that his age was the decisive factor in his dismissal. 6 As mentioned earlier this burden differs from most discrimination laws which allow for race or sex to merely be one of many reasons for job discrimination. 7 Zippittelli v. J. C. Penny Co.

Another case that exemplifies the difficulty in establishing a prima facie case of age discrimination is the case of Zippittelli v. J. C. Penny Co. , in which Joanne Zippittelli a long time J. C. Penny call center employee files suit against the company claiming that she was passed over on multiple promotions as a result of her age and sex. For this paper I will focus only on the age discrimination portion of the case. In the case, the plaintiff applied several times for promotions that she felt she was more than qualified for.

She was promoted once over the course of the seven years from 1990-1997 despite frequent requests and continued employment with J. C. Penny. 8 The plaintiff contends in the case that she was passed over for promotion multiple times and that she on all occasions felt that she was passed over either due to her age, she was 66 at the time of suit, or because of her sex. However, the court found that these past cases could not be tried as the period of 300 days statute of limitations had passed.

Therefore only the most recent of the instances would be considered in this case. The complaint of this case occurs in 2004 when the plaintiff and three additional women applied for the position of shift operations manager. There were two interviews that were conducted to rank and determine who would be given the position. Upon the completion of the interview process the plaintiff assumed that she would be given the position, however the position was given to Patti Cruishank a woman under the age of 40. 10 When we again reference McDonnell Douglas Corp.

Green, and apply the prima facie test to the case we find that the plaintiff is able to meet these standards. 11 The plaintiff is able to establish that she is (i) a member of the protected class, being 63 at the time of the incident, (ii) it was established that she applied and was qualified for the job as her manager encouraged her to apply, (iii) the plaintiff was denied the position, (iv) and it was given to a significantly younger unprotected class. The court found that therefore she had successfully transferred the burden of proof to the defense. 12 However the defense argued that they had legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for not promoting the plaintiff, and the court agreed transferring the burden back to the plaintiff to establish further that the company’s decision was made primarily on her age. The court dismissed the case finding that the plaintiff had not met the burden of proof to prove that her not receiving the promotion was based on her age. 13 This case further exemplifies the difficulty that plaintiffs face in proving age discrimination.

Even as the plaintiff in this case proved a prima facie case and transferring the burden of proof, the defense was able to transfer the proof back with a simple denial that age was involved in the selection process and without direct proof to discredit this defense the case was dismissed. Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents: Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents, provides clarity in the issue of the 11th amendment which grants state sovereignty and 14th amendment specifically section 5, which was meant to allow the enforcement of civil rights laws after the Civil War and there effects on the ADEA.

The 11th amendment of the US constitution passed in 1794, reads as follows and was meant to protect the sovereign rights of the states: The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State. 15 The 14th amendment was passed in 1896 following the civil war in order to allow for the enforcement of civil rights legislation.

However, in the case Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents, the Supreme Court of the United States provided clarity in the application of both the 11th and 14th amendments in regards to the ADEA and its use against the state by those they employ. In the case three sets of petitioners filed suit against the Florida Board of Regents claiming discrimination on the bases of their age. One of the cases was dismissed under the basis of states’ rights under the 11th amendment.

The remaining two cases, however dismissal was denied. All three where consolidated together and brought before the United States Supreme Court to decide if the ADEA could supersede a states 11th amendment rights. 16 A two part test is used to determine if the ADEA was meant to abrogate state rights under the 11th amendment. 1) Did congress intend to authorize suits against individual states? 2) Did congress in spite of their intent do so with a valid constitutional authority?

The court found that while it is clear in the laws language that they intended for local and state governments to be included should suits arise, the language in the 14th amendment specifically section 5 does not specifically name protected classes and therefore this is left to be determined by the courts. The courts found that age did not have the same standing as race or gender and therefore would not be included under the 14th amendment. The court further added weight to their decision, claiming that all states have individual age discrimination laws in place that allow for the filing of suits against the state and local governments.

McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green Since the McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, case is often referenced in age discrimination cases for its use of the prima facie burden of proof transfer it is important to understand the origins and story behind this case. The surprising factor about this case is that the case has no bases in age discrimination. The case is instead a case filed against McDonnell Douglas Corp. claiming race discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying that the defendant may have violated 703(a)(1), which prohibits discrimination in any employment decision.

This case is important as the Supreme Court used it to establish a procedure for cases that rely mainly on circumstantial evidence. 19 In the McDonnell Douglas case Percy Green was laid off from his position as a mechanic as part of companywide reduction in workforce. After being laid off, Green took part several illegal demonstrations that included blocking access to other workers at McDonnell Douglas by use of cars blocking roadways and a lock out. Three weeks later McDonnell Douglas placed an ad for a mechanic position. Green applied to the position and was denied employment, for which he filed suit claiming racial discrimination.

From this case we can trace the establishment of a three step establish of burden of proof where; 1) the plaintiff must prove a prima facie case, 2) the defendant must rebut as the burden of proof has shifted, and 3) the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to provide proof that the defendants rebuttal is untrue. 21 Conclusion: In conclusion, I found that while age discrimination obviously exists and takes place in the workplace, it is extremely difficult to successfully pursue remedy through the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Of all of the protected classes under labor law and civil right laws the older worker is by far the least protected. Not only must a victim of age discrimination prove a prima facie case, often the most difficult part of pursuing a age discrimination case comes when the burden of proof shifts back to the plaintiff and they must demonstrate that age was the decisive reason behind the employment decision. This differs from all other protected classes, which only need prove that gender, race, or religion where factors and they need not be the decisive factor.

The truth is older workers cost more money to employ. Older workers demand higher wages, require more time off, and are more likely to cost the company more money from an insurance stand point. Older workers need to continually develop in their careers in order to ensure that they are bringing irreplaceable skills and value to the business in order to ensure that they remain with the company and do not become a cost cutting measure, as the likelihood of proving and receiving remedies for age discrimination are not likely.

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