A Discussion of Age Discrimination in the Workplace

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There are many different forms of discrimination in the workplace. Bennett-Alexander and Hartman (001) feel that “America is a culture in which youth is valued” and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 167 (ADEA) prohibits employers from discharging, refusing to hire, promoting or any other discriminatory act based on age. There are myths about older workers that the ADEA protects against. Some of the myths are

· “Older worker are less able to perform in most positions that younger workers, even given their experience.

· In a reduction in force (RIF) caused by economic reasons, employers should always terminate the older workers, since they are the highest paid.

· If most people in a certain age group have a common weakness, it can be generalized that all in that group have the weakness, and age can my used as a job qualification.


· If an employee is discriminated against because of youth, the employee has a claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

· Employees must retire at age 65 in the United States” (001, pg 411).

The court case Adams, Wanda, et al. v. Florida Power Corp., et al. (00) argued that 70% of the 1,00 employees laid off from Florida Power Corporation between 1 and 16 were over the age of 40. Wanda Adams and her coworkers felt this was a case of age discrimination and initiated a class action lawsuit against their former employer because they felt Florida Power Corporation was in violation of the ADEA. In 16 the Florida District Court ruled in favor of the former employees. But in August 1, the court decertified the class; ruling that a disparate impact theory of liability is not available to those suing for age discrimination under the ADEA, as it is for those suing under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for race discrimination. Disparate impact states “even where an employer is not motivated by discriminatory intent, Title VII prohibits the employer from using a facially neutral employment practice that has an unjustified adverse impact on members of a protected class” (http//www.hr-guide.com/data/G70.htm). To prove the liability, Wanda Adams, et al, needed to prove that Florida Power Corporation might not have intentionally discriminated against employees over 40 years old, but the results of the layoffs unfairly affected the group.

Florida Power Corporation claimed the layoffs were necessary because in 1 Congress opened the electric utility industry to competition. The increase of competition led to fewer customers, resulting in the need for fewer employees. The Florida district court make no ruling that the Adams class could produce evidence of disparate impact, and allowed the case to be appealed the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on the basis of whether a disparate impact clam can be brought for age discriminate under the ADEA.

On July 5th, 001 the 11th Circuit panel ruled unanimously in favor of Florida Power Corporation. The panel concluded that disparate impact claims cannot be brought under the ADEA. The decision of the 11th circuit was consistent with four other circuit courts, but contrary to three other circuit courts. The three courts contrary to the 11th Circuit Court stated in their opinion that “because the language in the ADEA parallels language in Title VII, disparate impact claims should be allowed under ADEA” (Musgrave, 00). Judge Rosemary Barkett stated that “ disparate impact claims could be make on a case by case basis but the Adams case did not have the appropriate evidence to argue for disparate impact” (Musgrave, 00). On December 1th, 001, the United States Supreme Court demanded the record of the case from the 11th Circuit Court and concluded that it had accepted the ruling of the case.

Management can lessen the chance of an age discrimination lawsuit being filed against them or their company by understanding and following the laws in the ADEA. All employees, from the CEO to the technicians need to understand how statements and actions can cause an age discrimination case against their company. During a reduction in force the employer can do things to guard against lawsuits. The employer should “follow a specific procedure for the terminations, where objective criteria is used to determine which individuals shall be discharged, and where the discharged employee is not replaced by a younger employee” (001, pg. 45). Accurate documentation of the employee, reviews and events leading up to the RIF are vitally important if the employee decides to file a claim. In the case of elimination a position entirely, “if the discharged employee cannot show that his or her employer had some continuing need for his or her skills and services in that his or her various duties were still being performed, then the basis of the clam collapses” (001, pg. 46).

During the hiring stage, managers should be extremely specific on what qualification and requirements the potential employee will need. If the job description requires the employee to lift 70 pounds, it is wrong to assume that the 55 year old applicant cannot lift that much. In fact, that applicant may be the most qualified of all the applicants and it is in violation of ADEA to eliminate them from the job under the assumption they cannot lift the required amount. If the applicant meets the other requirements he or she should be contacted and given the opportunity to show that he of she can lift the amount required by the job. Management should also be careful during the recruitment stage as statement such as “looking for young upstarts to help build growing business” (001, pg. 44) can show the appearance that the company will only hire younger people for the position.

Age discrimination is but one in many different forms of discrimination in the workplace. The ADEA protects employees over the age of 40 from being wrongfully terminated, laid-off, passed over for promotions, or not being considered for the job based on age. The court case Adams, Wanda, et al. v. Florida Power Corp., et al. showed that even though there was a large percentage of employees over the age 40 who were laid-off, the courts ruled in favor of the Florida Power Corporation citing that the Adams case nit not have the necessary evidence to claim disparate impact. The best thing that management can do to protect a company is to keep accurate records of the employee so the records can be referenced at any future time.

Bennett-Alexander, D.D., & Hartman, L.P. (001). Employment Law for Business

(rd ed.). New York, McGraw-Hill.

HR-Guide.com, (001). HR Guide to the Internet EEO Disparate Impact,

Retrieved July nd, 00 from the World Wide Web


Musgrave, Beth. (001). Adams, Wanda, et al. v. Florida Power Corp., et al.

Retrieved July nd, 00 from the World Wide Web


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