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Experience range may be subtle indicator of age discrimination

Workers in California who are not hired for a position because of too many years of experience might be able to file an age discrimination claim. One man did so after applying for a job he had previously held as a temp. The company said that although the man met the criteria for the job, someone with years of experience might be inflexible. The man is in his 60s, and the job went to a 36-year-old.

The company filed a motion for summary judgment, but a federal district court judge denied it. The judge ruled that the upper limit on experience and the comments made to the man could constitute age discrimination and that there was sufficient evidence for the case to go to trial.

Age discrimination is coming under greater scrutiny from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the agency intends to increase its enforcement. Companies have begun dropping some language in job descriptions, such as "digital native" and "culture fit," that could lead to bias against older workers. The EEOC is investigating whether thousands of Intel layoffs globally were related to age discrimination, and a staffing agency was fined $50,000 after one candidate was told that age would be a factor. As many as 66 percent of employees ages 45 to 74 say they have seen or experienced workplace age discrimination.

Age discrimination laws protect workers who are 40 and older, but like many other forms of discrimination, it can be difficult to prove. Employers might claim that an employee was not keeping skills fresh, or they might use layoffs or other methods to push older employees out of the workforce. People who believe they are dealing with age discrimination during the hiring process or on the job may want to talk to an attorney about how to identify it and what to do next.

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