Articles Posted in Age Discrimination

By Verdy p (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsA lawsuit filed in a New York state court in Manhattan includes allegations of sexual harassment, but in a rather unusual way. The plaintiff in Hayblum v. Life Alert Emergency Response, Inc., et al., No. 154464/2015, complaint (N.Y. Sup. Ct., N.Y. Co., May 6, 2015), does not claim to have personally been the victim of sexual harassment. Instead, he claims that the defendants unlawfully retaliated against him for reporting alleged sexual harassment in the workplace. The lawsuit asserts causes of action under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).

The defendant produces and operates a medical alert system that enables elderly and disabled users to signal for emergency help at all hours. The company is perhaps best known for its television commercials using the line “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” The plaintiff, according to his complaint, began working for the defendant as a sales representative in its Manhattan office in October 2002. He became a sales manager in April 2006, and he held that position until November 2014.

The plaintiff alleges that he observed “rampant sexual harassment” in the defendant’s Manhattan office. Hayblum, complaint at 8. He claims that the company’s general manager, who was also a director and a vice president, routinely sexually harassed female employees by offering “promotions, perquisites, calls-ins [sic], and leads.” Id. Employees who refused his advances were, the plaintiff claims, denied work opportunities, terminated, or “treated so poorly that they were driven to quit.” Id. The plaintiff’s wife, who also worked for the defendant, was allegedly a “prime target” for harassment. Id.

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Standard_Hotel_from_southwest.jpgA former manager of a high-end Manhattan hotel filed suit against her former employer in Manhattan Supreme Court in November 2012, accusing the hotel of denying her maternity leave and other acts of discrimination. She alleges that the hotel began reducing her job duties after the birth of her child and eventually unlawfully fired her. The case is particularly notable because, after working until a late stage of her pregnancy, she gave birth in one of the hotel’s guest rooms. The lawsuit seeks $10 million in damages.

Tara Kimkee Tan worked as a manager at the Standard Hotel in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. The 42 year-old Tan alleges that her supervisors told her that she did not “fit the culture” there, which she interpreted to mean that she was not “young, white, thin, childless or male.” She had reportedly gained fifteen to twenty pounds after a difficult prior pregnancy, leading to the complaints from her superiors. Tan claims that, during the four years she worked there, she frequently put in eighty to one hundred hours per week, and she continued to work long hours while she was pregnant.

On April 30, 2011, Tan reportedly went into labor near the end of her shift at the hotel, at around midnight. She alleges that hotel management did not want to disrupt the “Friday night club scene and party” at the hotel, and therefore did not offer her any assistance. She ended up alone in a fifteenth-floor guest room, where she waited for about two hours until her husband arrived from their New Jersey home. He reportedly delivered the baby himself at about 2:30 a.m., with guidance from their doctor via cell phone. Hotel staff then made her leave via a side door, she claims, so as not to disturb the guests.
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Older workers face increased age-based employment bias in this bad economy, several studies report. Older Americans are losing their jobs as companies seek to cut costs, and then they are having difficulty finding new employment. Harsh economic conditions for many American workers and businesses have made age discrimination, often seen as an acceptable business consideration, more and more common. It is crucial for older employees, older job seekers, and employment discrimination attorneys to understand the scope of the problem and the rights and remedies set out under the law.

A study released by AARP, the advocacy organization representing the interests of older Americans, shows alarming trends in unemployment among people over the age of 55. As of July 2011, the average length of unemployment for older workers was 52.7 weeks, up from 20.2 weeks in December 2007. In that same three and a half year period, the unemployment rate for older workers increased from 3.2% to 6.9%. While this is less than the overall unemployment rate of 9.1% in July, it may be growing at a faster rate. Of those unemployed older workers, 53.9% of them met the criteria for “long-term unemployed,” meaning they had been out of work but looking for 27 weeks or longer.

The total number of employed persons over the age of 55 has increased since December 2007, from around 26 million to around 29 million. AARP attributes this less to more older workers finding jobs and more to an overall increase in the number of people over the age of 55. In December 2007 there were about 69.6 million people in that age group in the U.S. As of August 2011, that number had increased by 10.5% to 76.9 million as the Baby Boomers get older. An increase of 3 million employed older workers therefore accompanied an increase of 7 million older people.

A recent case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against technology giant 3M demonstrates the issue. The lawsuit alleged that the company laid off hundreds of employees over the age of 45 in violation of federal employment laws. The company allegedly fired older workers, denied training and job advancement to older employees in favor of younger ones, and adopted policies deliberately aimed at developing younger workers to the detriment of older ones. The EEOC’s investigation found an e-mail from the company’s then-CEO directing managers to “tap into the youth as participants in the leadership development.”
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A nationwide restaurant chain has engaged in a widespread pattern of discrimination against older employees and job seekers, according to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The suit, filed in a Boston federal district court on October 3, 2011, alleges that Texas Roadhouse restaurants violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act by favoring younger employees and applicants for service positions such as host, bartender, or waiter. The Kentucky-based company operates over 350 restaurants in 46 states, including eight in upstate New York and one in East Meadow, Long Island.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, the restaurant chain denied jobs to applicants over the age of 40 because it was “looking for people on the younger side.” Older job applicants reported a number of often-harsh refusals from managers at restaurant locations, including a statement that the restaurant needed “the young, hot ones who are chipper and stuff.” Training materials included with the complaint purportedly show a policy to favor younger individuals in hiring decisions. The EEOC’s Boston office began the investigation and claims to have uncovered a nationwide hiring pattern discriminating against older applicants going back to at least 2007. Only 1.9 percent of the company’s employees holding service and front-of-the-house positions are in the over-40 age group, according to the lawsuit. This is allegedly far below the overall percentage for that group in similar positions in other large restaurant chains.

The EEOC bases its lawsuit on the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, a federal statute that prohibits discrimination against people aged 40 or older. It forbids discrimination based solely on age in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, layoffs, promotions, and assignment of job duties. The statute also prohibits harassment in the workplace based on age. This encompasses any conduct that create an offensive or hostile work environment or contributes to a negative employment consequence, such as impeding an older worker’s job performance to the point that they get fired. Employment policies that disproportionately and unreasonably impact older workers are prohibited by the law, even if the policies have no discriminatory intent. The person or people doing the alleged discriminating or harassing do not have to be younger than 40 for the statute to apply.
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