Most people associate diversity in the workplace with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission comes from that era, it protects many different workers: race, nation of origin, and religion are well-known, but many overlook the category of age. Specifically, age discrimination refers to workers over the age of 40.

Despite the law being nearly fifty years old, many employers unashamedly push aging employees out of the company by favoring younger workers. Studies show that it’s an ongoing problem and it disproportionately affects women near retirement age.

Ohio State University E.S.L. teachers

A recent case that emphasizes this point involves two female E.S.L. teachers in their 60s at Ohio State University. The two noticed questionable behavior developing in 2010 and it carried over until 2014 when both chose early retirement to protect their benefits against the threat of losing their jobs. Throughout the 2010 to 2014 period, the teachers lost their individual offices and were given lower rung work, while less qualified younger employees were promoted ahead of them. In that time, more than 20 E.S.L. staffers left the university. One of the two plaintiffs in the case lost significant weight and developed an ulcer from the stress.

Prior to their retirement, the E.S.L. teachers sought an internal review at the university, which brought no changes. The EEOC, on the other hand, sided with the women this year. The suit gives them back pay and retroactive benefits nearing $500,000 and both women are now back at work. The university will also update its policies and training to prohibit age discrimination in the future.

Compensation and fairness

Due to a Supreme Court ruling in 2000, a state employer cannot be liable for damages in such a suit, such as covering medical expenses like weight loss and ulcers. In Ohio, the teachers received back pay and recognition of being wronged. With private companies, though, damages are the primary peace of mind in an age discrimination lawsuit. In addition to lost pay and unfair treatment, medical expenses and pain and suffering have a serious impact on overall quality and enjoyment of life.

Management often has their own ideas about leadership and the direction an organization should grow. Sometimes those ideas don’t align with federal law, even if those laws have been on the books for half a century.

When management discriminates against employees it creates a highly stressful work environment that isn’t just frustrating and damaging to your health, it’s illegal. Any worker is forced out of their job because of their age should consult with an employment discrimination attorney to review your case and protect your right to enjoy the autumn years of your career.