Now hear this: Hearing loss comments are evidence of age bias

Hearing aid 20080620It is unlawful under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act “to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s age.” An employee who alleges that she was fired in violation of the ADEA has a tough time prevailing because she must demonstrate not that “age was a reason” behind the termination decision, but rather that “age was the reason.”

In a recent decision, a Mississippi federal court allowed a plaintiff, a former beauty supply company employee who suffered from hearing loss, to take her age discrimination claims to trial because she had presented evidence that that her manager made remarks such as, “Yeah, that’s what happens when you get old.” 

[I was going to break in here in Alright Hear This, but two f-bomb’s and a sh*t preclude that. Instead, we’ll try this one.]

The plaintiff also testified that her manager mentioned the need for “new blood in the area,” and otherwise questioned why the plaintiff had not retired because “she was old enough to.” Additionally, the plaintiff was able to demonstrate that one of the company’s legitimate business reasons for terminating her, because she supposedly allowed her husband and sister (neither of whom worked for the company) to perform company work for her, was pretextual. One of the plaintiff’s co-workers was not fired for allegedly doing the same thing and testified that the supervisor was ok with it.

Ultimately, even if the company prevails at trial, it is going to have to pay its legal counsel a lot more money to obtain that result. Learn from this. Train employees and managers that ageist (and other similar comments), even if meant in jest, have no place in the workplace.

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