The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers age 40 or older from discrimination based on age.
To win an ADEA lawsuit, an employee has to show that a younger employee replaced her. However, that younger employee must be at least six years younger unless there is direct evidence of age discrimination.
Recent case: Melissa Smith-Deaton was fired from her job at an insurance company after she was caught accessing her daughter-in-law’s insurance policy in the computer system. The daughter-in-law had already warned the company she suspected Smith-Deaton might try to change the beneficiary without permission.
Smith-Deaton sued, alleging age discrimination was the real reason for her firing. But her replacement was a mere five years younger—not enough of an age difference to support a lawsuit without direct evidence. (Smith-Deaton v. Western & Southern Financial Group, No. 1:08-CV-505, 2009)
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