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Workplace Age Discrimination an IssueCase Study

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¶ … United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 40% rise in the proportion of workers aged between 55 and 64, from 2006-2016; this figure is almost twice as much as that of workers aged more than 65 years. By the year 2016, America's working population in the age group of 65+ is estimated to constitute 6.1% of the overall workforce, as compared to 3.6% in the previous ten years (Burnett, 2012). Surprisingly, job hunters have begun reporting incidents of age discrimination, starting as prematurely as their mid-thirties. Before they enter their forties, job hunters believe they are regarded as no longer effective in certain industries. This issue of age discrimination may be mitigated through the aid of some strategies (Age Discrimination Issues in the Workplace, n.d). Furthermore, laws exist, forbidding employment discrimination on the basis of age. Aside from being regarded as "old," experienced people are, at times, believed to be more of a disadvantage to companies, in that they require higher salaries, benefits expenses, pensions, etc. than younger candidates. Younger or middle-aged people need to bear in mind that they aren't alone (Age Discrimination Issues in the Workplace, n.d):

People aged over 45 years are more unemployed than those younger than them.

By the year 2018, the country's workforce is estimated to have about 39 million people in the age group of above 55 years, as opposed to the 2008 figure of 27 million.

Older employees are thinking of postponing retirement on account of economic recession.

Studies haven't detected any link between job performance and age.

The 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) safeguards certain job candidates and workers in the 40+ age-group from discrimination based on age in the context of recruitment, compensation, discharge, promotion, or employment privileges, terms, and conditions. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) enforces this law. ADEA is applicable to all organizations that have at least 20 employees on their payroll, labor organizations having over 25 members, local, state and federal governments, and employment agencies. The act is not applicable to military personnel or independent contractors. Individual states have their own regulations that provide older employees with job protection (.Age Discrimination Issues in the Workplace, n.d).State laws may be stronger and more effective in protecting older employees than ADEA, and are applicable to every organization (even those having less than 20 employees).

Facts

Ms. Kirby was a senior investigator with her organization until the post was removed during downsizing. A younger, less-qualified male colleague was assigned a large share of her role. Ms. Kirby refused to rejoin the organization when approached by her employer. The court ruled summary judgment as inappropriate with regard to Ms. Kirby's age and claims of gender discrimination, as she presented evidence revealing that the employer's decision to do away with the post she was holding during downsizing didn't ensue from applying impartial and consistent criteria, as the company asserted, and that their explanations for the decision were false (2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89968 Document). There were other factual disputes with regard to whether, among other things, (1) one of the main decision makers in the organization exhibited any feelings of hostility toward women investigators, (2) the complainant was more effective than her retained colleague at loss prevention, and (3) differential treatment was meted out to the complainant any time during the course of her employment. Summary judgment with regard to the employer's argument that Ms. Kirby's refusal to get rehired limited her compensation was inappropriate, since there was a factual disagreement regarding whether this decision of hers was objectively sensible.

The East Division recruited Ms. Kirby into the post of Investigator on the 9th of October, 2000 (DF PP 11, 16). She went on to become a Senior Investigator in the division, a post she maintained till the 22nd of October, 2004, when the post was eliminated. Initially, Ms. Kirby's direct boss was Tom Leasure, who, at the time, held the position of the Division's Loss Prevention Director. In the year 2001, Mr. Miele, the defendant in the case, took over the position of Mr. Leasure. Both the above directors directly reported to Mr. Thomas (2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89968 Document). The complainant claims that proof exists of real discriminatory attitude on the main decision maker's part in her removal from the post. Ms. Kirby specifically indicates Mr. Leasure's deposition testimony that suggested Mr. Thomas was against employing women investigators.

Issue

The issue in this case is discrimination on the basis of age at the workplace (Writer Thoughts).

Ruling

The recommendation of the magistrate judge was adopted by the court, and the defendants' motion for summary judgment was denied (2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89968 Document).

Analysis

ADEA forbids workplace discrimination against employees in the age group of over 40 years on the basis of age. Further, several states have legislations of a similar kind for preventing workplace age discrimination (Age Discrimination in the Workplace -- HR Topics for human resources, n.d). ADEA was amended by the 1990 Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) for expressly prohibiting organizations from discrimination against employees who are older, by means of denying them privileges. The complainant maintains that her employers violated Massachusetts General Laws, as the basis for their decision of eliminating her post during downsizing was her gender and age. Chapter 151B of the Massachusetts General Laws forbids discrimination against, or discharge of a worker on the basis of the worker's gender or age. A worker claiming that she experienced unequal treatment during downsizing on the basis of her protected standing falls precisely within the law's purview. Because of its prompt summary judgment motion, the company didn't contest that the complainant can launch a clear discrimination case (2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89968 Document). Thus, in the next McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework, there is a shift in burden to the company. At this juncture, the organization needs to present a genuine non-discriminatory cause for terminating the worker's employment. This only involves a production burden, with that of discrimination persuasion remaining with the worker.

In this case, the organization has offered non-discriminatory justification for eliminating the complainant's post. It has specifically put forth facts for supporting their claim; the company asserted that its sales was declining, coupled with a rise in company expenses, thus forcing them to downsize, and that it did, in fact, establish objective criteria for position elimination, including costs and geography. Also, the organization's departmental heads reduced positions according to a collection of consistent guidelines and instructions (2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89968 Document). Furthermore, the record consists of facts that indicate the company's decision to remove the complainant's post was only finalized following HR department's evaluation for ensuring adherence to discrimination regulations. This proof, though contested by Ms. Kirby, is enough to satisfy production burden of the defendant. See Sullivan, 444 Mass. at 51, 825 N.E.2d at 538 (concluding that the accused's product burden was met at the second stage by explaining what caused downsizing and presenting proof that business reasons existed for choosing to layoff the complainant, not related to her gender and age).

Proof with regard to the organization's decision to assign responsibilities that were a part of the complainant's territory to her younger colleague, Mr. Raecek also support the complainant's accusation of discrimination. The record, significantly, states that Mr. Raecek had much lesser experience as compared to the laid-off employee. Additionally, as explained earlier, the complainant presented facts for supporting her stance that her employer's decision didn't make any good business sense (2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89968 Document). Thus, the jury could rule that the company retained the male employee's post rather than that of Ms. Kirby's, for pretextual reasons (i.e., jury reasonably found pretext from conditions associated with laying-off more experienced complainant rather than the younger, less-experienced worker). When perceived in the most favorable light for Ms. Kirby, the record supports the conclusion that the organization's excuse for removing the complainant's post was pretextual; she was removed owing to her gender and age. Hence, the court ruled that complainant's charges of discrimination need to be taken up before a jury; also, the employer's summary judgment motion as regards liability must be denied. The proof, when perceived in the complainant's favor, could support the verdict that the reasons asserted by the defendant for doing away with the complainant's post are untrue; the complainant was, indeed subject to unlawful discrimination on grounds of her gender and age (2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89968 Document).

Conclusion

The court ruled that, when evidence of circumstances surrounding the organization's rehire offer to the complainant are perceived in the most favorable light for her, the jury could agree that complainant's rejection of the proposition was objectively sound. As a preliminary matter, the complainant has broached an issue regarding whether the company's rehire proposition entailed a post "substantially equivalent" to the post she previously held. Clearly, the fresh offer would require her to be in charge of 254 outlets, i.e., 48 more outlets under Ms. Kirby's charge than previously (2008 U.S. Dist.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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