Florida’s population is the oldest in the United States. So perhaps it comes as no surprise that older workers in the state are becoming increasingly litigious in filing Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) lawsuits. Even some in their 70s and 80s are suing.
Advice: Don’t expect older employees to go away quietly if they think you’re putting them out to pasture due to their age. Never include age in your decisions on hiring, firing, pay or perks. Also, remember that the jury hearing an age-discrimination case is drawn from the same population as the work force.
Now’s a good time to brush up on age-bias compliance rules at www.eeoc.gov/types/age.html.
Two recent cases serve as good lessons for any employer:
Case #1. A 78-year-old seamstress had worked in the Neiman Marcus alterations department for 10 years and received good reviews. Then she was fired. She sued, claiming Neiman’s fired her because a new manager wanted to present a younger, more hip image for the store’s customers.
Neiman’s denied that age was the reason for firing her, saying it was because she had “attitude problems.”
The jury must have seen her sweeter side in court because it awarded her $500,000 for pain and suffering and another $123,000 in lost wages, benefits and interest.
Case #2. Joseph Servedio, a Pinellas County bridge tender, claims he was forced out of his job at the Indian Rocks drawbridge after 14 years of service. He said he received good reviews but was pressured to retire after his 80th birthday.
Not so, says the company. It argued that Servedio quit voluntarily and, in fact, was given a retirement party at work. The bridge tender can’t recall any party. “Why wasn’t I invited?” he joked. He says all he got was a card.
No word yet on whether Servedio, too, will sue. But according to news reports, he says he needs a job to support his family.
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- Back up consistent discipline system with documentation, review of high-stakes cases
- Planning layoffs? Check age demographics before and after proposed RIF
- Ask EEOC to keep employee info confidential
- Firing family members? If they're at will, it's your call