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Wrongful termination claimed in lawsuit for age discrimination

A seasoned employee with almost 25 years of service probably expects to be treated with a certain amount of deference if a work injury occurs. However, it often happens in Michigan and elsewhere that the employer instead seizes the opportunity to squeeze the worker out of his job and replace him with a younger, lower-paid worker. What sometimes starts out as a back or neck injury and the collection of workers' compensation benefits may turn into full-fledged litigation for wrongful termination.

One issue often causing conflict is an injured worker's lifting and other restrictions. Employers don't generally like to receive a doctor's written prescription for work restrictions, such as for example a 30-pound lifting restriction. The doctor's note may typically go into the employee's personnel file but not be delivered to the foreman on the job. This causes deep frustration and ongoing conflict when the worker sees that the restriction is being completely ignored.

The personnel director may be in a behind-the-scenes workplace conspiracy to commit age discrimination to satisfy the explicit or implied desires of her superiors. These things do happen every day. It becomes the job of the employment law litigator to flush them out during discovery procedures.

In a California case, a worker for Pebble Beach County sued the county recently for age discrimination on a complaint generally following the above pattern. Also included in the complaint were allegations of disability discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation. The man, who is over 55 years old and has almost 25 years with the county, claims that the county started the discrimination by cutting his hours and later terminating him ostensibly due to the lifting restrictions.

The same basic issues would apply in Michigan wrongful termination litigation. If the worker was still performing his job duties with the restrictions in place, there was no reason to cut his hours and later no reason to terminate his employ. The real key to the case is to focus on discovering what the employer's officials may have done or said to reveal what the plaintiff asserts was their real intention: getting rid of him due to age discrimination.

Source:, Former Pebble Beach Co. employee claims age, disability discrimination, Allison Gatlin, Jan. 7, 2014

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