The United States first passed legislation prohibiting age discrimination in 1967 with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act or ADEA. The ADEA is similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity, and religion.
The ADEA differs from the Civil Rights Act because it recognizes that age can sometimes play a role in labor market decisions and consequences. For instance, the ADEA initially allowed companies to continue to have mandatory retirement ages while raising the age from 65 to 70 before prohibiting it entirely for most employees.
The other major federal legislation prohibiting discrimination is the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA, passed in 1990. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, as defined by the federal act. Additionally, many states have age and disability discrimination laws that strengthen the existing federal laws.
While the ADEA is the most apparent legislation relevant to age discrimination, all of these anti-discrimination laws play a role in protecting older workers from discrimination. Data shows that both state and federal laws reduce age discrimination and are effective at increasing employment among older workers.
Unfortunately, like many other forms of discrimination, discrimination based on age is still a common occurrence in the United States. Age discrimination occurs when an employee or applicant is treated unfavorably based on their age rather than their merit, capability, or skill. The ADEA protects people over the age of 40 from discrimination, while some states have laws that protect younger workers from age discrimination.
Age discrimination can take many forms. For example, online algorithms can automatically disqualify older applicants, and older employees often have to tolerate age-related comments and jokes. In addition, senior employees are often passed over for much-deserved promotions in favor of younger employees, and wages and benefits are often skewed to favor more youthful employees.
Age discrimination occurs daily in the workplace and is not only tolerated but often goes unrecognized as discrimination. Discrimination against older employees is so pervasive in the workplace that people don’t even recognize that it is illegal.
Recently, the Disparti Law Group was retained to handle the age discrimination lawsuit of Ronald Gaines. A retired Chicago police officer who later worked at the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Gaines alleges in the lawsuit that he was terminated from his position as assistant chief of the electronic monitoring unit because of his age.
The lawsuit names Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, and the electronic monitoring unit’s supervisor Carmen Ruffin as defendants. The suit was filed in federal court on Thursday, September 30th, and alleges that the defendants violated the ADEA when terminating Gaines’ employment in March.
Gaines states that in August of 2019, Ruffin, the executive director of community corrections, insinuated that he was too old to be working at CCSO and suggested he should just retire. Ruffin also pointed out the pension Gaines had already earned from the Chicago police department as a reason to retire. In addition, the suit states that Ruffin expressed to Gaines that she was interested in moving younger officers into higher positions in the electronic monitoring unit.
Shortly after this interaction, Gaines took medical leave due to a shoulder injury that happened while on the job. However, before he could return to his position, two deputies visited him, asked for his credentials, and informed him that he was terminated.
The county and the sheriff’s department dispute Gaines’s claim, stating that his termination was due to Gaines leaving his work assignment without permission.
After consulting with Chicago employment lawyers Cass Casper and Larry Disparti of Disparti Law Group, Gaines and the attorneys determined that the case held merit and decided to file the lawsuit. In a press conference following the filing, Larry Disparti, owner of Disparti Law Group, stated that ” we will fight workplace discrimination wherever we see it.”