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As regular readers of our The Good Wife recaps will know, the show has had a lot of fun with elder partner Howard Lyman's claims of age discrimination. But refusing to hire someone or harassing an employee because of his or her age is serious. Not only is it demeaning to the person, but it could be grounds for an age discrimination lawsuit.
But what proof do you need to file an age discrimination claim, and how do you demonstrate age discrimination to a court? Here are a few factors:
Discrimination based on a prospective or current employee's age is covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Under the ADEA, an employee must show that an intentional adverse action was taken on the basis of his or her age. These actions can include everything from advertising, interviewing and hiring decisions to compensation, promotion, and firing decisions.
Employees are also protected from harassment based on age if the behavior is frequent and severe enough to create a hostile or offensive work environment or if the harassment results in an adverse employment decision against the protected worker. And employers cannot reduce benefits to older workers.
The problem with most age discrimination claims is proving the adverse action was based on age, rather than some other criteria. Employers are allowed to make bona fide occupational decisions if there is a reasonable belief that workers over a certain age are unable to perform the job safely. Just saying
While just showing that you were replaced by a younger person is not enough to prove you were discriminated against, this fact can serve to strengthen a claim under the ADEA. And of course if you have direct evidence that the adverse action was based on age and not some other criteria that would help, but such evidence is not usually available. Your best bet is to document as well as you can the instances of harassment or any employment decisions you feel were based on age.
If you feel that you've been discriminated against in the workplace due to your age, or if you need help filing an age discrimination claim with the EEOC, you may want to discuss your claim with an experienced employment attorney today.