According to the Chicago Tribune, shoe retailer DSW, Inc. has agreed to settle an age discrimination suit brought by the Chicago District Office of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of seven managers and approximately 100 other employees, all of whom claimed to have been terminated in 2008-2009 in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). DSW, based in Columbus, Ohio, has approximately 10,000 employees nationwide and over a dozen locations in the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area alone.
According to the EEOC, DSW conducted a “reduction in force” that resulted in the termination of employees and managers over 40. Furthermore, according to the EEOC, not only did DSW terminate employees based on their age, but it also retaliated against employees who refused to follow the force-reduction directive. The lawsuit, filed on September 15, settled for $900,000, to be given to the former employees, and the requirements that DSW report any employee complaints of age discrimination in the next three years to the EEOC and revise its anti-discrimination policy.
As is to be expected in this sort of situation, DSW denies it discriminated against these workers based on age and claims it decided to settle in order to mitigate the costs associated with litigating a class-action lawsuit such as this.
Charges of age discrimination filed with the EEOC have increased about 36 percent since 1997, which may be due to recession-induced downsizing (or use of the recession as a cover to terminate older workers). Here are some important things to keep in mind when considering whether you may have been the subject of age discrimination in your workplace.
- The ADEA only prohibits age discrimination that disfavors older workers. If you were terminated, not hired, or not promoted simply because you are too young, you are not protected by the ADEA even if your employer directly tells you it is discriminating against you for being too young. Likewise, your employer may choose to favor older workers over younger workers without violating the ADEA.
- The ADEA only prohibits age discrimination against workers who are over 40 years old. If you are not yet over 40, you are not protected by the ADEA even if your employer directly tells you it is discriminating against you for being too old.
- The ADEA does not only apply to young people discriminating against older people. Supervisors and management who are over 40 can still discriminate against their over-40 subordinates.
- Age discrimination is illegal with regard to any aspect of employment. As the EEOC states, this include hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.
- Age discrimination can extend beyond the aspects of employment noted previously. Employers are also forbidden from engaging in age-based harassment, such as making offensive comments about a person’s age. It is important to remember that simple offhand remarks or non-serious isolated incidents do not rise to harassment under the law; rather, harassment becomes illegal when it is so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile work environment or results in the victim being subject to an adverse employment action, such as those described previously.
- An employment policy or practice that applies to everyone equally can still violate the ADEA if it is not based on a reasonable factor other than age and has a negative impact on ADEA-qualifying employees and applicants.
Do you feel like you’ve been the subject of age discrimination in your workplace? If so, contact one of the attorneys at The Erlich Law Office for a consultation today.