Determining whether age discrimination has occurred can be a challenge. Often employers will hide behind other reasons as to why an employee was terminated. There are federal statutes in place that make it illegal for employers to discriminate against a worker because of their age. But what can a worker do if he or she suspects their termination was because of their age?
One woman sued her former employer, retail giant Macy's, claiming age discrimination. She filed the claim in San Francisco but the lawsuit was moved to federal court system. Macy's argued that her termination was legitimate because she had violated a store's policy on different occasions.
The woman had been working at Macy's for almost 20 years when she was fired. Before her termination she had asked her supervisor to change shifts because of her poor night vision. Her manager denied her request and insinuated that the woman should considering retiring. This insinuation was made on two separate occasions.
Another supervisor made a comment with regards to her age after she was transferred to a different department. She was instructed to let "young" employees do some of the work; she had been accused of not working as hard as she should be. Not long after she was fired after allegedly misusing store discount coupons.
The U.S. Magistrate Judge of the Northern District of California determined that with the evidence given, a jury could come to the conclusion that age discrimination was the underlying motivation for the woman's termination. Even though the company argued that they fired her because she violated the coupon policy, some of the comments made regarding the woman's age and retirement were not just offhand remarks.
The judge noted that because the individual who made the comments was in a position of power to terminate the woman, the comments could not be simply dismissed as offhand remarks. The woman's case will likely go before a jury who will decide whether the termination was discriminatory.
Source: Reuters News & Insight online, "Age, disability claim against Macy's move forward," 31 May 2011