As Michael Winerip reports in THE NEW YORK TIMES, the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling mandates that age bias be proved to be the primary reason for a layoff. However, in some states such as New Jersey, the burden of proof is lower. Plaintiffs only have to demonstrate that age bias was one factor.
In the NYT article, Winerip chronicles the lawsuit of Robert L. White, former director of career services at Rutgers University. Several other terminated aging employees have joined the suit. Here is that story.
This category of lawsuit is hardly about rights. It is all about the economic reality that once the aging lose their good jobs, the odds are against them for finding a comparable one. That represents not just a loss of income. Until they reach the age at which they are eligible for Medicare, they also will have to cough up the cost of health insurance. White is also burdened with providing health insurance for the whole family. Monthly he shells out $2,400. Clearly that can deplete a nest egg.
Given the huge number of Baby Boomers - about 76 million - a plaintiff win or significant settlement will have big implications. Those of us in full time jobs will be encouraged to take legal action if we suspect discrimination. Employers, even at the stage of recruiting, will be more cautious. Too many help wanted actually use the word "young." What disrespect for the contribution aging workers, with all their experience, can provide.