Articles Posted in Age Discrimination

By Shelby Krzastek

Former UBS Securities, LLC (UBS) employees Shannon Zoller and Alexander Beigelman claim that UBS forced laid-off employees to release claims against UBS to receive deferred compensation to which they were already entitled under their employment contract. The policy allegedly breaches UBS’s employee contract and violates New York and Illinois state labor laws, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act. On December 12, 2016, Zoller and Beigelman filed a putative class action against UBS in the U.S. District Court of Illinois.

The suit alleges that, in February 2013, numerous subsidiaries of UBS implemented a policy requiring any employee laid off during staff reductions to sign a waiver and release of claims in order to receive previously earned deferred compensation. According to Zoller and Beigelman, UBS hid the policy in an appendix to a document accompanying the employee contract.

Shelby Krzastek

On October 27, 2016, Blythe Asher, former Senior Vice President of Talent Development and Casting at E! Entertainment Television, Inc. (E!) and NBC Universal (NBC), brought a wrongful termination suit against her former employer, alleging that E! had discriminated against her because of her age and disability. Asher began working at E! in 2009, where she oversaw casting, talent development, and talent management for the E! network, eventually working her way up to Senior Vice President in July 2013. Although Asher was never in front of the camera herself, her position demanded substantial personal interaction with numerous celebrities, directors, producers, and industry executives.

In summer 2014, Asher was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. Asher continued to conduct business and oversee her department via telephone and e-mail throughout her cancer treatment, even on the morning of her surgery and from her hospital bed during her recovery.

Lucie Rivière and Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

On Wednesday, March 2, 2016, and March 4, 2016, The Harman Firm, LLP published the first two parts of its three-part article titled Microaggressions. The third part, which follows below, discusses microaggressions in the context of employment discrimination litigation.

Passed in 1964, Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees on the basis of gender and race, among other protected characteristics. Under Title VII, prohibited discrimination includes subjecting an employee to a hostile work environment and unlawful employment practices. Unsurprisingly, examples of all three forms of microaggressions (microinsults, microinvalidations, and microassaults) are reported in a variety of judicial opinions brought under Title VII. However, Title VII does not prohibit conduct that is “merely” offensive, meaning that not all microassaults are actionable (and most microinsults and microinvalidations are not either, despite their impacts on their targets). Indeed, the Supreme Court held that “mere utterance of an ethnic or racial epithet which engenders offensive feelings in an employee” does not sufficiently affect the conditions of employment to implicate Title VII.

Lucie Rivière and Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

On Wednesday, March 2, 2016, The Harman Firm, LLP published the first part of its three-part article titled Microaggressions. The second part, which follows below, discusses practical examples of microaggressions and their impact on those subjected to them.

Microaggressions are hidden messages that are sent: (i) verbally (“You speak good English” to Latino or Asian coworker, suggesting that Latino and Asian Americans, because of their ethnicity, are foreigners and not ‘real Americans,’ regardless of their birth place); (ii) nonverbally (clutching one’s purse more tightly when a black man passes on the sidewalk, conveying the belief that Black people are prone to crime and are “up to no good”) and; (iii) environmentally (using American Indian mascots during football games, suggesting that American Indians are savages or otherwise outsiders and demeaning their culture and traditions).

Lucie Rivière and Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

This blog is the first section of a three-part article discussing microaggressions and their effect in the workplace. This first section covers the development of the term “microaggression” and the different types of microaggressions that exist. The second section covers practical examples of microaggressions and their impact on those subjected to them. The third section covers the application of microaggression to employment discrimination law.

As more brazen forms of workplace discrimination slowly become less common, employees may experience more discrimination through microaggressions. Chester Pierce, M.D. of Harvard University, who developed the concept of microaggressions in the 1970s, describes microaggressions as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”

Yarelyn Mena

Employment discrimination can occur at the application stage; an individual does not need to be a current or former employee to bring a discrimination claim. It is important for everyone in the labor force to know that prospective employees are also protected by antidiscrimination laws.

Prospective employees generally do not attend a job interview on the alert for an interviewer’s discriminatory questions but, according to a survey conducted by the job search website CareerBuilder, twenty percent of hiring managers ask “off-limits” questions during interviews. The following is a list of ten categories that candidates should be weary of if interviewers breach these topics. It is important to note that although many of these questions are not explicitly illegal to ask, they give rise to an inference of discrimination.

Yarelyn Mena and Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

On October 15, 2013, after twenty-five years of employment Dr. Farrokh Seifaee was one of fifteen employees terminated from AREVA, Inc. (AREVA) as a part of a reduction in force (“RIF”). The group of fifteen all had one thing in common: every member was over the age of fifty-five years old. On May 12, 2014, Seifaee filed a complaint alleging age discrimination in violation of the Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination Law and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

In 2011, AREVA lost funding on major projects, resulting in several layoffs in an initial RIF. For the next several years, Seifaee’s team and various others had little work to do as projects began to diminish. In September 2013, AREVA’s management began preparing for another RIF. Department heads, including Seifaee’s supervisor Bret Boman, created criterion to determine which employees would be laid off. The criterion considered business needs, current and past evaluations of each employee, and the employee’s critical or unique skills. Each employee was rated on a scale from one to ten, along with written documentation supporting the evaluation.

Yarelyn Mena and Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

In February 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filed a lawsuit in the South District of Florida against Ruby Tuesday, a national restaurant chain, alleging age discrimination. The EEOC alleges that Ruby Tuesday discriminated against older applicants for both “front of the house” positions, which include host and server positions, and “back of the house” positions, which include chef and kitchen manager positions. The complaint claims that Ruby Tuesday’s management told older applicants that they were “too experienced,” that Ruby Tuesday was searching for “fresh” youthful employees, and that “[Ruby Tuesday] wasn’t looking for “old white guys.”

This lawsuit is not the first time Ruby Tuesday has been accused of age discrimination. In 2013, Ruby Tuesday agreed to pay $575,000 to settle another age discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC in Western District of Pennsylvania, which alleged that Ruby Tuesday directly or implicitly instructed the managers at six restaurants in Pennsylvania and Ohio to not hire servers, bartenders, hostesses or kitchen staff over the age of 40.

On November 17, 2014, the United States District Court for Arizona approved the settlement of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Murphy School District No. 21, in which the Defendant agreed to pay $138,000 to twenty-three plaintiffs as compensation for denial of benefits based on recipients’ age. More significantly, the school district agreed to re-write its policy quickly, undertake training programs, and subject itself to ongoing scrutiny and enforcement by the Commission.

The policy in question, as set out in the Complaint, on its face discriminates based on age, with younger retirees receiving substantially greater benefits than older in proportion to their age:

(a) Employees retiring with five through nine years of service:

On August 28, 2013, the EEOC filed the lawsuit in the Spartanburg Division of the U.S. District Court for South Carolina against a Spartanburg transportation company on behalf of two of its employees. Both plaintiffs in the case–EEOC v. Atchison Transportation Services, Inc.–are over seventy years of age, both worked as drivers, and according to the complaint each was told by management, more or less explicitly, that he was being terminated because of his age. If true, these allegations imply that the company violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which states clearly in 29 U.S.C. § 623 that “it shall be unlawful…for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s age.” The plaintiffs won a settlement of $85,000, and the case was dismissed on October 2, 2014.

One plaintiff, William Thomas, claims that his Operations Manager informed him that he was terminating his employment because he was 75, although he had believed that Thomas was only 70. The same Operations Manager told Thomas that the company’s insurance policy contained a clause that did not allow anyone to drive after he or she reached the age of 75. No problems with Thomas’s performance at the job were ever discussed as part of this process.

The other plaintiff, Norris Locke, was terminated under similar conditions. Locke, a 76-year-old motor coach driver, was also told that the Defendant’s insurance carrier did not want to insure him any longer so he was terminated. Again, no performance problems were discussed.