The nagging suspicion that your age has played a role in your treatment at work can be difficult to cope with. If you're wondering whether you have a case worth taking to a firm that provides age discrimination law services, here's what you need to consider.
Company Size and Profile
Under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, two classes of businesses are subject to suits. The first class is comprised of companies that employ more than 20 people. In the second class, there are public entities, such as local, state, and federal government agencies, and companies that do business with the federal government. There may also be local and state rules that provide broader discretion in bringing such claims.
Patterns of Conduct
One big issue that tends to get the attention of age discrimination attorney is when a company shows a pattern of hiring younger workers and dismissing older ones. Such patterns aren't always as overt as outright firings. In many cases, older workers will be offered severance packages or end up pushed into assignments meant to make them hate their jobs and quit. Raises may also disappear, and performance reviews may start marking an employee lower for no good reason as they age.
There are also certain terms that companies use to mask age discrimination. "Skill match" and "culture fit" are often euphemisms for age-based patterns of discrimination.
Outright discriminatory language is becoming less common, as many in the corporate world have adapted to the ADEA and accompanying regulations. As exemplified by a case from Ohio State University where two older female employees were referred to as "dead wood," though, these types of cases are still a thing.
Fired for Good Cause
A particular challenge in dealing with an age discrimination case is what happens when a company finds good cause to dismiss an employee. In such situations, even if there is an obvious pattern or overt statements being made, it's hard to present a meaningful argument.
The big question in these cases is whether younger workers have been dismissed based on similar complaints about their conduct. If there's evidence that a company tolerates certain behavior, such as providing coaching to folks in their 20s while firing employees in their 60s, then there's a better chance of pursuing an age discrimination case. An age discrimination law attorney can request documentation of firing patterns during the discovery process.