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Federal law bans employment discrimination based on age

Age discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee unfavorably because of his age. The main federal law that forbids age discrimination is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). It applies in Michigan to protect people who are age 40 or older. Under the ADEA, it is illegal to engage in employment discrimination against anyone because of his or her age and regarding any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training.

It's also illegal to retaliate against an individual for opposing age discrimination or for filing an age discrimination claim, or for participating in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADEA. The law applies to employers with 20 or more workers, and to governments, employment agencies and labor organizations. One of the things to look for in discovery is proof of statistical evidence that supports a claimant's claim.

The search for evidence may be assisted by the Older Worker Benefit Protection Act. This is an amendment to the ADEA that prohibits employers from denying benefits to older employees, except under certain specified conditions. It also requires employers to give statistical information to older workers being laid off in a group layoff or series of layoffs. This allows them to determine if the layoffs are falling disproportionately on older workers.

In a Kentucky case, a former principal and high school coach sued the school district for age discrimination for terminating him from his most recent position as construction and maintenance director. The school district says that he was terminated for dishonesty for accessing the district's gas pumps with an unauthorized key. But the plaintiff alleges that several individuals under the age of 40 did the same thing and were not disciplined.

The federal rules stated above apply in Michigan to prohibit employment discrimination based on age. The claim that workers under age 40 also misbehaved but were not disciplined may be useful depending on the facts developed. The above case is going to go into discovery and motions procedures, and may be settled as the facts become better known to both sides.

Source: journal-times.com, Former principal, coach sues Carter school system, Kenneth Hart, Jan. 29,2014

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