Anyone who suspects they were terminated because of their age.
What's Going On?
Workers are challenging their former employers, claiming that they were fired because of their age.
How Common Is Ageism?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reports that between 1997 and 2007 there were between 16,000 and 19,000 complaints of age discrimination. Since then, the number of complaints has risen to 25,000 per year.
How Do I Know If I Was Fired Because of Ageism?
Your performance reviews went downhill for no reason, the company "layoff" only included older workers, you were forced to quit or forced into early retirement, etc. (Full list below.)
Under federal law, it is illegal for companies with 20 or more workers to fire employees 40 and older simply because of their age. Despite these regulations, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission still receives thousands of complaints each year from workers who believe they were terminated because of their age.
How Would I Know If I Was Fired Because of My Age?
It’s not always easy to tell – but we find that workers often have a hunch that they’re being fired because of their age. This often occurs when a worker has years and years of excellent performance reviews and is then suddenly fired after hitting a certain age – only to be replaced by someone younger.
Other signs you were fired because of ageism include:
Your boss made discriminatory remarks about your age (calling you “old man/lady,” senile, etc.; continually asking when you’re going to retire)
Your formerly excellent annual reviews turned negative once you hit a certain age – even though your performance never changed
Other employees in your office were terminated without reason and replaced with younger employees
You were fired for something younger workers do without disciplinary action
You were told your job was “eliminated” – but the position was still open and taken over by a younger worker
Your company’s “layoff” only included older people (the company may have fired a few younger people too, just to make the layoff look legitimate)
Your company offered you an early retirement package – the alternative to which was termination
You were forced to quit after your employer assigned you humiliating, low-level tasks; drastically cut your hours; or isolated you in the office
A company can still be accused of age discrimination if the boss or CEO is over 40. It’s also important to note that while a company can terminate senior staff employees and hire younger people for a lower salary to save money, workers over the age of 40 cannot be fired because the employer will need to pay retirement benefits or more in insurance premiums.
What Laws Protect Workers Against Ageism?
A federal law known as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers from being terminated simply because they’re 40 years of age or older. The law applies to companies with at least 20 employees, including government and employment agencies.
Some states have their own laws that offer further protections – including to employees of companies with less than 20 employees.
Have These Cases Been Successful?
Yes. Below are some of the results from wrongful termination suits filed by the EEOC involving ageism:
$3 million for a group of nearly 300 workers who were terminated as part of a “reduction in workforce” that made way for younger employees
$400,000 for eight dockworkers who were fired when they hit the age of 50 after working at the company for 20+ years
$201,000 to a worker who was called “old fashioned,” fired and replaced with a man in his 30s
Nearly $200,000 for an office coordinator in Hawaii who was allegedly fired because of her age and called “a bag of bones” in the workplace
$100,000 for a worker who was fired after 26 years of employment due to his company’s policy that required all employees 67 years and older be terminated
If you’re worried about going to court for your ageism case, it’s important to keep in mind that most lawsuits settle before ever reaching trial.