Curt Masker is a Nashville age discrimination lawyer who fights for workers who have been harassed or fired on the basis of their age. If you are age 40 or older and have been fired or otherwise treated poorly compared to younger coworkers, you may be the victim of age discrimination. Age discrimination claims are highly fact intensive and speaking with an experienced employment lawyer like Curt Masker to review the specific facts of your case is a smart first step.
Age discrimination is prohibited by both Tennessee and federal law. Protected employees (age 40 and up) who suffer age discrimination can seek monetary and equitable relief, including back pay, front pay, liquidated damages, emotional distress damages, and reinstatement. As a law firm exclusively dedicated to fighting for workers’ rights, The Masker Firm understands the lasting impact age discrimination has in the workplace.
Examples of unlawful age discrimination may include:
- Being terminated in favor of a younger workers who will accept less pay/ benefits
- Being chosen for lay off in a Reduction in Force while younger workers with less seniority and experience are retained
- Being constantly on the receiving end of ageist comments by your boss such as “old man,” “on the back 9,” “over the hill,” and “just retire already”
- Being passed over for promotion in favor of a younger, less experienced coworker or outside job applicant
Workplace age discrimination is widespread: between 2010 and 2019, the EEOC received over 200,000 complaints of age discrimination in the workplace. To help combat such prejudice, Congress passed The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). The ADEA makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge any individual because of such individual’s age for those over the age of 40. 29 U.S.C. § 623(a).
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act was designed to prevent discrimination against older workers “on the basis of inaccurate and stigmatizing stereotypes and to ensure that employers evaluate their employees on the basis of their merits and not their age.” Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggins, 507 U.S. 604, 6010 (1993). The ADEA applies to employers with at least 20 employees. The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 amended the ADEA to prohibit employers from denying benefits to older employees.
Similarly, the Tennessee Human Rights Act also prohibits age discrimination in the workplace. The same legal analysis applies to age claims under both the ADEA and the THRA. Bender v. Hecht’s Dep’t Stores, 455 F.3d 612, 620 (6th Cir. 2006). However, the remedies provided for in the two statutes differs. While the ADEA permits liquidated damages (doubling of back pay award), the THRA allows for compensatory damages for the very real emotional pain and suffering caused by a wrongful termination. The THRA applies to employers with eight or more employees in Tennessee.
Workplace bias against older workers is very real and you need an employment lawyer who can fight for you. For a free online case review, contact a Nashville age discrimination attorney today.
A plaintiff without direct evidence must establish a prima facie case of age discrimination by showing he or she: (1) was at least 40 years old at the time of the alleged discrimination; (2) was subjected to an adverse employment action [fired, demoted, denied promotion, pay cut, etc.]; (3) was otherwise qualified for the position; and (4) was replaced by a younger worker, or there are circumstances that support an inference of discrimination. Moffat v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 624 F. App'x 341, 345–46 (6th Cir. 2015).
The first three elements are usually easily established while the fourth element is hotly disputed. Importantly, for the fourth element, the replacement employee does not need to be outside the protected age group (i.e., under 40). O’Connor v. Consol. Coin Caterers Corp., 517 U.S. 308, 311-12 (1996).
For instance, a 57 year old employee who is replaced by a 42 year old still satisfies the fourth element. In the Sixth Circuit, the appellate jurisdiction for Tennessee federal courts, an age difference of ten or more years has generally been held to be sufficiently substantial to meet the requirement of the fourth prime facie element of a claim for age discrimination. Grosjean v. First Energy Corp., 349 F.3d 332, 336 (6th Cir. 2003).
Once a plaintiff has established a prima facie case of age discrimination, the burden shifts to the employer to offer a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action (e.g., termination). Reasons at this stage often include poor job performance (vaguely labeled as “unable to meet company’s expectations”), violation of company policy, and/or absenteeism.
After the employer has proffered its nondiscriminatory reason, the plaintiff must establish that the reason is pretext for age discrimination, which can be established by showing the proffered reason is (1) untrue; (2) did not actually motivate the termination; or (3) was insufficient to justify the action. Geiger v. Tower Automotive, 579 F.3d 614, 622-623 (6th Cir. 2009). These three methods are not rigid and mutually exclusive, but rather they illustrate the types of evidence capable of raising a material fact of pretext.
Ultimately, when determining pretext, the court employs a “commonsense inquiry” and asks: “did the employer fire the employee for the stated reason or not?”
Do you have an age discrimination claim? Contact Nashville age discrimination lawyer Curt Masker for a free online case review.