In Florida, age discrimination is a significant factor in many unlawful termination and layoff cases. Though an employer may cite financial reasons for company layoffs, often the employees let go are older workers. If you believe the reason behind your job loss is due to a form of employment discrimination, it is important to promptly speak with a knowledgeable labor and employment law attorney.
At the law office of Donna M. Ballman, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale, we represent workers, executives and professionals throughout South Florida who have been unlawfully terminated or experience age-related harassment. Contact us to speak with an employee-side employment lawyer about your specific situation.Protected by Federal and State Legislation
Employees in the United States and in Florida are protected from age discrimination by state and federal legislation. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects employees who are at least 40 years old and work for an employer with at least 20 employees. The ADEA makes it unlawful for an employer to make job-related decisions based solely upon age. Florida law goes further, applying to employers of at least 15 employees and protecting both older and younger workers from age-related employment discrimination, layoff or wrongful termination. If you were selected for layoff, but younger employees with less experience were kept on, you may be a victim of age discrimination.
Here are some signs that you might be a victim of age discrimination:
1. Biased comments
These are the most obvious signs, and thus the rarest. If your boss calls you "grandma" or "old man," asks you about your retirement plans, says that they want a younger image, or says that your best days are behind you -- document it. This could be considered direct evidence of discrimination. Similarly, if you are called “youngster,” “the baby” or told you’re too young to have your job, that may be age discrimination in Florida. If there are any witnesses, write down their names. Note dates, times and places.
Look around you. Pay attention to how younger employees are treated. If they are treated differently than you under the same circumstances, that could be evidence of age discrimination. Who was laid off and who wasn't? If older people were the primary targets, start writing down their names, along with the names of younger, less-qualified employees who were kept on. In Florida, if you have the same degrees and experience as older employees but are paid less or given less responsibility, that could be age discrimination.
3. Disparate discipline
If you're disciplined for something that younger (or older) employees do without consequences, write it down. They might be building a case against you due to your age.
If you're more qualified than a younger employee, but you're not chosen for a promotion that you applied for, it may well be due to your age. In Florida, if you have the better degrees or more experience than older employees but are denied a promotion when you’re the most qualified, that could be age discrimination.
If younger employees are given the best leads, assignments and equipment, this could be a sign of age discrimination. Additionally, if older employees are excluded from key meetings, or if the boss only socializes with younger employees, then these too may be signs of age-based discrimination.
6. Hiring younger employees
If you see a pattern of your company hiring only younger employees, or if you are turned down for a position that you apply for and see it given to a less-qualified younger employee, it may be a sign that the company is discriminating due to age.
7. Suddenly stupid
Does the attitude at work change after you hit an age milestone? Or does a new boss only like younger employees? If you turn, say, 50 or 60 and suddenly get negative performance reviews and write-ups, you might have an age discrimination claim.
If it doesn't affect you in the wallet, it's considered harassment. If you think your boss is trying to make you miserable due to your age to try to get you to quit, or if you're being called names and made fun of due to your age, start writing it down.
9. But the boss is older
Even if the boss is your age or older, if they prefer younger employees over older ones, it still might be age discrimination.What to Do If You're Being Subjected to Age Discrimination
If the company hands you a severance agreement and you think you've been targeted for layoff due to your age, contact an experienced employment lawyer. We might be able to negotiate a better severance package for you. Plus you might be giving up rights that you don't need to sign away. Always read and understand before you sign.
If you're being harassed (something that doesn't affect you in the wallet) because of your age, then the Supreme Court says that you have to report it, if the company has a harassment policy, and give them a chance to fix the situation. Only if they don't remedy it, or if the harassment continues, can you file a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or your state agency. If you just up and quit, or if you skip this step, you may lose your right to sue for discrimination.
If it's an adverse employment action, like denial of a promotion, a demotion, suspension without pay, or termination/layoff, you need to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or your state/county/city agency before you can sue.
In Florida, you have either 300 days from the date of discrimination, depending on your state, to file with the EEOC and 365 days to file with the Florida Commission on Human Relations.Your state/county/city might have different deadlines. Don't miss your deadline! This is a requirement before you're allowed to sue. Contact a Florida age discrimination lawyer today to protect your rights.
Most importantly, if you think you're the victim of age discrimination, gather your notes and evidence and contact an employment lawyer, so that you can find out whether you have a potential claim and what you need to do.Severance Packages and Waivers
If you believe you have been wrongfully laid off or illegally terminated due to age discrimination, speak with an attorney before signing anything. An employer may request you sign a release of all claims, including age discrimination, prior to being given severance pay. This may bar you right to any further legal action, especially if the employer is acting unlawfully. They may also insert a non-compete provision saying you can't work for a competitor for a year or two.
Contact Donna M. Ballman, P.A. for counsel from a Florida employment law attorney. For more than 25 years, our firm has provided guidance and advocacy for employees, executives and physicians whose rights have been violated. We are ready to listen to your concerns, evaluate your situation and explain your legal options.
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