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$51 Million Awarded in Age Discrimination Case

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Never fear that you are not big enough to stand up to a large corporation. Everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. A recent jury verdict of $51.5 million in favor of an employee and against one of New Jersey's largest employers demonstrates this principle in action.

Robert Braden was 66 years old when Lockheed Martin laid him off from his position as a project engineer in 2012. He was a mid-level manager who'd been employed at the company for 29 years when a reduction in force resulted in the lay offs of 308 workers company-wide.

Braden was the only person in his six-member team to be let go, and he was also the oldest. When they let him go, Lockheed provided no reasons to Braden for choosing him over two younger employees with the same title as Braden. The two younger employees retained their positions. To add insult to injury, the company hired a new, younger employee for Braden's position a year later.

In fact, Braden claimed Lockheed Martin regularly hired young employees to fill positions for which he was qualified even while the company continued laying off other workers.

The discrimination lawsuit Braden filed claimed age was a motivating factor in his termination. He also claimed he'd been paid less than younger workers with similar jobs and said he'd heard remarks by company executives that it was okay to give older workers lower reviews and lower pay because older workers have nowhere else to go.

But Braden did have somewhere else to go. He went to court.

Age discrimination is the act of a person treating someone less fairly because of his or her age. The Age Discrimination Act in Employment Act was enacted in 1967 to protect people who are over 40 years old from becoming disadvantaged at work because of their age. Older employees must be treated fairly by employers when it comes to hiring, firing, pay, promotions, layoffs and all other employment conditions.

Our laws are designed to protect people like Braden. For all of Lockheed's great size, impressive wealth and smart lawyers, it couldn't change the facts of the case, which the jury said showed he'd been a victim of age discrimination.

Lockheed Martin denied the allegations, of course. Its lawyers said Braden was let go for legitimate reasons. They cited poor reviews and lack of skills as reasons. But, when Lockheed employees were asked in court to explain why Braden was let go, their stories varied, making their argument a hard sell. Lockheed Martin also tried to point out differences in the responsibilities and job duties between Braden's position and those of his younger co-workers.

The 8-person jury was unconvinced. The jury voted to grant Braden:

  • $520,000 in economic losses
  • $520,000 in liquidated damages (per the Age Discrimination Act)
  • $50,000,000 in punitive damages

This case clearly shows employers can't get away with discriminating against older employees. Employers must be able to demonstrate objective reasons for terminating an older employee. If you are concerned about age discrimination in the workplace, contact us for consultation.



Feds Mull Risk of Discrimination Charges from Social Media Use

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

It's not a situation that is common right now, but with the increased use of social media use and companies making use of social media channels for recruitment, it is not a situation that is will be uncommon in the near future. Employers currently often use Facebook, twitter and other social media for recruiting, and therefore, the federal administration has a pertinent question - will these companies be at risk of discrimination lawsuits, because those recruitment strategies leave out older people who may not be using social media?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission focused on such questions at a recent hearing on how the use of social media by companies, job applicants and employers can affect enforcement of discrimination laws. Any job seeker now knows that Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media networks are just as important a source of job opportunities these days as conventional recruitment channels. In fact, more opportunities are posted on these channels, as more and more companies use social networks to hire prospective employees.

However, older persons may not be as inclined to use computers, and even less inclined to use more professional networks like LinkedIn, although older people are likely to use social media like Facebook. Therefore, there could be issues about whether companies could be found guilty of discriminating against older employees by using such recruitment channels.

Last year, one study found that as many as 77% of companies frequently used social networking sites to find candidates for specific jobs. That was an increase from 56% in 2011, and a rate of 34% in 2008. The highest recruitment action took place on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

There are also questions about the risk of lawsuits, arising when employers choose to use social media to screen applicants.



EEOC Files Age Discrimination Lawsuit against Mattress Firm

Friday, September 27, 2013

As the senior workforce in the country continues to age, California employment lawyers are likely to come across more cases involving discrimination against senior workers based entirely on their age. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been taking a grim view of such occurrences. The agency recently filed a lawsuit against Texas-based Mattress Firm, alleging age-discrimination against employees.

The employees that are the focus of this lawsuit were employed at a facility in Las Vegas. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit against the company, company officials went about the deliberate process of making things very difficult for the older workers in Las Vegas. This was part of a systemic program to eliminate his older workers from the company, and replace them with younger workers.

Mattress Firm and 15 unspecified defendants have been named in the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, a number of workers, including salespersons and store managers were all victimized as part of the company's campaign to phase them out of the firm, and replace them with younger workers.

The discrimination is alleged to have begun after the Mattress Firm acquired the Las Vegas mattress chain back in 2007. Older workers began to feel pressure from the firm, as they received not-so-subtle signs encouraging them to quit. Older workers who did not quit, or did not give in to the pressure, were fired.

According to the lawsuit, the Mattress Firm was very stringent in its discrimination against older workers, calling older workers “set in their ways” and “resistant” to change, and naming these the reasons why these workers were being phased out and replaced with younger workers.




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