Both federal and Ohio law prohibit employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants who are 40 years old or older. Both the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and Ohio’s laws prohibiting discrimination apply to all aspects of employment, from job applications and interviews to pay, promotions, and layoffs/termination.
At the same time, employers have the right to decide whom to hire, reward with a promotion or raise, and fire. Simply being older than 40 does not mean a person cannot be denied a job, turned down for a raise, or let go. An employer can point to, for instance, a job applicant’s lack of relevant experience, an employee’s poor performance, or its own financial circumstances to justify any of these decisions.
The job of an employment attorney is to help an employee collect, analyze, and present evidence that an employer took the action it did because of the worker’ age. Without this evidence, it will be almost impossible to prove an employer made a decision because of age. Building and pursuing an age discrimination case often takes a lot of time and effort. Partnering with an employment attorney to see the case through can be worth it to receive monetary compensation and hold the employer accountable for any unlawful action it has taken.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA, is the federal law that specifically protects the rights of workers over the age of 40. Under the ADEA, employers cannot treat younger people more favorably than those over 40 when it comes to hiring and firing, or when making decisions about what to pay someone, which jobs to assign to individuals, who to promote, who to offer training, which benefits to offer, or what conditions to make people work in.
The ADEA also makes it illegal for managers and supervisors to abuse, insult, or mistreat older workers. When an employer learns that an older worker is experiencing discrimination or that employee reports concerns of discrimination, the employer must take those concerns seriously and investigate.
If an older worker reports age-based discrimination, their employer cannot retaliate against them. Prohibited acts of workplace retaliation include making a demotion, reassigning the worker to a lower-status position, denying raises and promotions, and wrongful termination.
The Ohio statute prohibiting age discrimination closely mirrors the ADEA. For example, section 4112.14 of the Ohio Revised Code reads, “No employer shall discriminate in any job opening against any applicant or discharge without just cause any employee aged forty or older who is physically able to perform the duties and otherwise meets the established requirements of the job and laws pertaining to the relationship between employer and employee.”
As with the ADEA, people who live and work in Ohio can file complaints and lawsuits for age discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination under the state civil rights law. If an employee only has an Ohio claim, this complaint would be filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.
Workers who experience age discrimination should first report the problem to human resources or a trusted supervisor. When that is not an option, or when a complaint fails to yield solutions, it is time to file a complaint with a government agency.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions (EEOC) handles ADEA claims. The OCRC handles claims filed under state law. The EEOC can handle these claims if an employee has both federal and state age discrimination claims.
A worker has the legal right to consult with an employee rights attorney at any time in the process. Even speaking a lawyer before going to HR or a supervisor can make sense because doing so will provide insight on how to phrase the complaint and on which types of evidence to share.
Producing the proper evidence is essential. Few cases of age discrimination in the workplace are so blatant as to be clear to everyone. For instance, employers write job listing with phrases such as “energetic” and “youthful energy” instead of just saying, “Only apply if you are younger than 30.”
When no direct evidence of discrimination like this exists, it falls on the worker and their attorney to establish the following facts:
In many cases, it is also important to show that the worker was treated differently from younger people who applied for or held the same job. As a practical matter, the age difference between workers should be at least 7-9 years but all courts interpret this differently.
Finally, when the case concerns retaliation, only a short amount of time must have passed between a complaint of age discrimination and the adverse employment action. For instance, getting fired a month after going to HR might support a lawsuit. This timing is called “temporal proximity.” The shorter the temporal proximity between the protected activity and the adverse job action, the easier it becomes to make an argument for retaliation.
Employment law attorneys at The Friedmann Firm welcome opportunities to advise and represent victims of workplace age discrimination in Ohio. We offer free consultations, and we take appointments online. You can speak with a lawyer directly by calling us at (614) 610-9755.