Proving you have been subject to age discrimination at work is not always easy. Yet, a 2020 Supreme Court decision to reverse a previous judgment shows that you should never give up.
The case concerned a highly qualified pharmacist who believed her employer, the Department of Veterans Affairs, refused her opportunities due to her age, then retaliated when she complained.
How much of a role does age have to play for it to be discrimination?
Laws are a series of words put together, and as with any phrase, different people may interpret them differently. When the court initially heard the case, the judges interpreted the relevant age discrimination statute to mean that you need to show age was the only reason your employer did something. For example, age is the only reason your employer did not promote you, or age is the only reason they fired you. To prove this, you would need to show you were equal or superior to all the other candidates in all ways.
The new ruling applied a different interpretation. In the words of one of the judges, “If age is a factor in an employment decision, the statute has been violated.”
The ruling applies to federal employers, but it is a positive sign if you have faced age discrimination from any employer. It took the pharmacist in question six years to get a result, yet she won in the end through persistence.
If you wish to bring an age discrimination claim against your employer, the sooner you start the process, the better. You need to file within the state’s statute of limitations. If you think you have a case, seek help to understand more about your options.