Federal Appeals Court Sheds Light On Age Discrimination Law

Federal Appeals Court Sheds Light On Age Discrimination Law

As employees age, they will likely face additional challenges at work like new technology and the expanding global marketplace. When age is used against them, however, employees can seek legal relief. In Barton v. Zimmer, Inc., decided in October 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit stated that federal law prohibits “adverse employment action” against employees based on age. The court also explained the relief employees can get.

“Adverse Employment Actions” Defined

In Barton, a former employee brought age discrimination and retaliation claims against his employer, claiming he was demoted because of his age. The court said that to succeed under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA, the employee had to prove he suffered an “adverse employment action.” According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, this can relate to hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments or training.

The appeals court said that even a job transfer, if it reduces future career opportunities, can be considered adverse. The same goes for a hostile work environment and certainly for an unbearable change in job conditions.

The Remedy: Compensation For Damage Done

If the employee can prove an employment discrimination law violation, several remedies might be available, the appeals court explained. One is reinstatement (getting your old job back). If that’s not possible, the employee might be entitled to back pay if he or she was fired or had his or her pay reduced. Finally, the court can come up with other ways to compensate the employee. For example, since the employee in Barton was disabled and could not work, the court considered giving the employee “front pay,” a cash award for what he would have earned if he were reinstated.

Employees Opposing Discrimination Protected Against Retaliation

According to the EEOC, it is also unlawful for employers to retaliate against their employees who claim discrimination at work. Federal law says that employers cannot discriminate against employees who oppose unlawful employment practices, whether they do so by filing discrimination charges, testifying, or otherwise participating in court proceedings against the employer.

Employees who believe they have been discriminated against based on their age should contact an experienced employment discrimination attorney to determine whether they have an age discrimination claim, and if so, what remedies are available. An employment discrimination attorney can challenge your employer’s actions and fight for the compensation or reinstatement you deserve.