Disparate Impact and Elder Workers' Lawsuit in Jackson , Mississippi
Discrimination can occur as an unintended effect of employment policies. ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) prohibits employment discrimination against persons 40 years of age or older, ensuring them that they will not be denied health benefits, training opportunities, or passed over for promotion due to their age. In 2004, the Supreme Court in Smith, et al. v. City of Jackson, Mississippi, et al. found what city officials might have intended as a positive revision to their police officer pay program had discriminated against their older officers.
The city wanted to raise officer and dispatchers' salaries to what other departments in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama paid as starting salaries. All officers received pay raises, but those with less than 5 years' service received bigger raises than those with more seniority. Most officers over 40 had more than 5 years of service.
Supreme Court found that age discrimination occurred due to the pay policy's disparate impact, that is, these employment policies, appearing to be age-neutral, actually discriminated against older workers. Though city officials (the employer) have stated they had the best of intentions, their policy had a greater negative effect on older workers who won compensation for this pay disparity.
Recent Supreme Court Ruling Makes Discrimination Cases Harder
Discrimination law was recently set back by a recent, controversial 5-4 Supreme Court ruling. In most discrimination lawsuits, the plaintiff (employee discrimination against) and his/her lawyer must file a charge with EEOC before a private lawsuit is pursued. The case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. set a new precedent for the already strict time limits for filing with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
An employee must file with EEOC within 180 days from the instance of discrimination. This means an employee has a strict 6-month statute of limitations. The difficulty arises when discrimination occurs over a long period of time.
Ledbetter, a supervisor at a Goodyear plant in Alabama, had suffered through the harassment from her male boss but did not take legal action until she discovered that her male counterparts were receiving greater and more frequent raises.
Unfortunately, despite apparent long-term discrimination, the Court found that in the 6-month period preceding her report that no discrimination had occurred. Ledbetter's back pay and compensation for mental anguish a lower court had awarded her were taken away because her discrimination claim exceeded the statute of limitations.
Legal Representation in Discrimination Cases
Employees of a protected status class with clear evidence of discrimination need to take immediate action by speaking with a workplace discrimination attorney.
Victims of discrimination can make changes in America's hiring practices and can be compensated with promotion, back pay (money the employee should have earned), emotional distress and punitive damages, and front pay (money awarded if they are unable to return to the discriminatory workplace).
As stated on the EEOC website:
An employer may not fire, demote, harass or otherwise "retaliate" against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in a discrimination proceeding, or otherwise opposing discrimination.
Elder employees, even though you might have been required to waive your ADEA rights in exchange for a severance package, you still have rights and can file suit to challenge the legality of layoffs that seem to select a protected status.
Lawyers for Change.
We spend a good portion of our lives at work. The Consumer Justice Group believes that the workplace include people of all walks of life and should treat these employees fairly. If you have protected status and you have proof that your employer has discriminatory practices affecting your protected status and you would like the power of a nationwide network of workplace attorneys working to maintain workplace diversity, contact the Consumer Justice Group.
The Workers' Rights News is a service of the Consumer Justice Group.