It is unlawful, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, to discriminate against an employee because of their age, specifically employees who are age 40 and older. It is also unlawful to retaliate against those employees when they complain about discrimination or participate in the investigation of a claim of age discrimination. Nevertheless, in a recent age discrimination case, the United States Chamber of Commerce has endorsed age discrimination.
The case of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Co.
Richard Villarreal, 49-years-old, submitted numerous applications for a position as Territory Manager at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Co., but was continuously denied. It was discovered that the company was using a resume review system that essentially eliminated older applicants. Specifically, the company told the staffing agencies that it "desired" candidates that were only "2-3 years out of college" and told recruiters to "stay away from" candidates with 8-10 years of experience. As a result, Villarreal's resume and the resumes of hundreds of other older job applicants were automatically rejected. Villarreal filed suit.
The amicus brief filed by the Chamber of Commerce
An amicus brief can be filed by someone who is not a party to a case and who has not been solicited by any of the parties, but who offers information that bears on the case and may assist the court. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed such a brief in the case of Villarreal, asserting that there are "sound policy reasons" to deny older workers equal protection because "[o]lder workers did not face societal headwinds that might lock them into a lifetime of inferior job prospects …." The Chamber also argued in its brief that age discrimination in hiring has "enormous benefits" for employers because it represents a "key means for employers to access the cutting-edge advances from colleges and universities, and they permit companies to create robust programs for developing homegrown leaders."
The general purpose of anti-discrimination laws
The general purpose of anti-discrimination laws is to protect employees who are members of distinct groups who are commonly subjected to irrational discrimination based on fear, bias and incorrect stereotypes. As the Villarreal case clearly demonstrates, older employees are subject to widespread age discrimination in hiring, which ultimately injures not only those employees, but society as a whole. One of the primary reasons the ADEA was passed, was the realization that age discrimination reduces the nation's productivity, while costing taxpayers billions in health and social welfare costs when those individuals are denied employment.
What you can do to protect your employment rights
Employment law claims are very complicated and require very specific types of evidence. The laws that provide these protections are also complicated and court procedures can be problematic to navigate. If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment attorneys at Michel | King , either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.