Florida Injury and Employment Attorneys

Protections Afforded Workers Based on Age

January 26, 2016

scales book Orlando Work Discrimination LawyerAlthough both federal law and Florida law make it illegal for an employer to make employment-related decisions based solely on age, a Tampa work discrimination lawyer at Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, LLC can explain that such claims require detailed analysis and are very fact-specific.

Basic Differences Between Federal and Florida Law

Under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), employees and applicants who are 40 years or older are protected against discrimination by private employers with 20 or more employees. The ADEA protections also apply to government employers.  Unlike federal law, Florida law applies to employers with at least 15 employees and does not specify an minimum age in order for a worker to be a member of a protected class.  Thus, under Florida law, employees could be protected from discrimination based on both their younger age and older age.  In terms of damages, the ADEA does not permit a successful litigant to recover compensatory damages for emotional pain and suffering, nor does it permit a recovery of punitive damages. On the other hand, Florida law allows for the recovery of compensatory damages for emotional pain and suffering and punitive damages.  Although the ADEA does not provide compensatory and punitive damages, it does permit a successful litigant to recover liquidated damages, i.e., an amount equal to the back pay award.

Types of Discrimination

Most workers understand they cannot be terminated or not hired at all due to their age, but an experienced Tampa work discrimination lawyer understands that there is a more inclusive range of protections afforded by the law. One of the more overt ways in which employers discriminate is through disparate treatment; for example, younger workers are treated better with regard to the terms and conditions of their employment compared to the older workers. Some examples include:

  • Promotions
  • Discipline
  • Assignments
  • Training
  • Performance reviews
  • Lay-offs

A work discrimination lawyer can also help to investigate whether the discrimination is individualized, or focused on a class of employees.  Many class action discrimination lawsuits are in the age discrimination context.  For example, a company may have new ownership that wants to “freshen” the look of the company and, as a result, the older employees are systematically separated from employment and replaced with younger employees.  Situations such as this are more common than most believe.  If a worker believes that there is an effort by the employer to move toward a more youthful workforce, he or she should consult an Tampa work discrimination attorney.

Additionally, if the policies and practices of the employer seem to be neutral yet have a disproportionately negative effect on older workers, this is considered disparate impact and is similarly illegal. Importantly, in a disparate impact claim, there is no need to prove intentional discrimination by the employer.

Harassment

Although harassment is somewhat different than other types of discrimination in that it does not have a direct economic impact on the individual, it is nonetheless illegal to harass a worker because of his or her age. Harassment can be behavior that is specifically directed at one individual or a more general atmosphere that prevails in the workplace.

Filing a Claim

Discrimination claims are different than most civil causes of action in that it is almost always necessary to file a claim (Charge of Discrimination) with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the appropriate Florida agency before filing a lawsuit in court. Failure to do so may preclude your right to have your claim adjudicated.  Your Tampa Work Discrimination lawyer can educate you on the rules associated with filing a Charge of Discrimination, along with your options after filing a Charge of Discrimination.

Document the Evidence

In an age discrimination claim, the employer will often acknowledge the negative employment consequence, but contend that some legitimate reason, other than age, was the true reason for the action taken. The viability of your claim rests in large part on your ability to prove the contrary. Most cases do not involve direct evidence, so it is important to create a written record of the history of what has occurred. Such evidence, such as verbal comments, a pattern of actions taken with other employees in your age range, or other forms of favoritism can help prove your case of age discrimination.

Contact a Tampa Work Discrimination Lawyer for Legal Advice

If you have suffered a negative employment consequence that you feel is unlawful based on your age, it is important to seek counsel to determine if your rights have been violated. Take the first step; call Florin Gray Bouzas Owens, LLC, a Tampa Work discrimination lawyer, at (727) 254-5255.

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