$1,643,000.00 Arbitration Award Age Discrimination Case
Needles v. 1928 Jewelry, Ltd., Mel Bernie & Co., et al.
Mr. Greg Helmer obtained award on behalf of an employee who had been discriminated against and harassed because of his age. The landmark arbitration award was, at the time, reputed to be one of the largest ever received by an individual in a discrimination case.
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for:
- Opposing discriminatory employment practices based on age
- Filing an age discrimination charge
- Testifying, participating in an investigation, proceeding or litigation pertaining to Age Discrimination
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act or ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations, as well as to the federal government. Age Discrimination in Employment Act protections include:
It is generally unlawful for apprenticeship programs, including joint labor-management apprenticeship programs, to discriminate on the basis of an individual’s age. Age limitations in apprenticeship programs are valid only if they fall within certain specific exceptions under the ADEA or Age Discrimination in Employment Act if the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission grants a specific exemption.
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The Age Discrimination in Employment Act generally makes it unlawful to include age preferences, limitations, or specifications in job notices or advertisements. A job notice or advertisement may specify an age limit only in the rare circumstances where age is shown to be a “bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOQ) reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business.
The ADEA does not specifically prohibit an employer from asking an applicant’s age or date of birth. However, because such inquiries may deter older workers from applying for employment or may otherwise indicate possible intent to discriminate based on age, requests for age information will be closely scrutinized to make sure that the inquiry was made for a lawful purpose, rather than for a purpose prohibited by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (OWBPA) amended the ADEA to specifically prohibit employers from denying benefits to older employees. Congress recognized that the cost of providing certain benefits to older workers is greater than the cost of providing those same benefits to younger workers, and that those greater costs would create a disincentive to hire older workers. Therefore, in limited circumstances, an employer may be permitted to reduce benefits based on age, as long as the cost of providing the reduced benefits to older workers is the same as the cost of providing benefits to younger workers.
Waivers of Age Discrimination in Employment Act Rights
An employer may ask an employee to waive his/her rights or claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act either in the settlement of an ADEA administrative or court claim or in connection with an exit incentive program or other employment termination program. However, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, as amended by Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, sets out specific minimum standards that must be met in order for a waiver to be considered knowing and voluntary and, therefore, valid. Among other requirements, a valid Age Discrimination in Employment Act waiver must:
- Be in writing and be understandable
- Specifically refer to Age Discrimination in Employment Act rights or claims
- Not waive rights or claims that may arise in the future
- Be in exchange for valuable consideration
- Advise the individual in writing to consult an attorney before signing the waiver
- Provide the individual at least 21 days to consider the agreement and at least seven days to revoke the agreement after signing it
If an employer requests an Age Discrimination in Employment Act waiver in connection with an exit incentive program or other employment termination program, the minimum requirements for a valid waiver are more extensive.