What constitutes age discrimination?

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What constitutes age discrimination?

Position was expansion of sales area. Given 5 states to make connections, establish products, and increase sales. Exceeded goals in all areas. Middle manager was hired and tried to document poor performance, but each time I was able to support my job results to HR. Finally just given the reason of “going in another direction”. Now that I have established market and grown sales 220% I am no longer needed. Hiring someone younger and for much less money. Worked in an “at will’ state; about to turn 42. 

Asked on March 8, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The "good news" is that you are in a protected category--age over 40--so IF you can show that age discrimination was involved, you may have recourse.

Of course, being in a protected category doesn't mean you can't be fired--just that you can't be fired because of age. A company way fire you, if you're at will, for any reason except for an illegal (e.g. discriminatory one). So, for example, a boss not liking you or the company wanting a different approach are perfectly legitimate reasons.

In a case where there is no "smoking gun"--e.g. derogatory remarks, emails, etc.--you can establish a "prima facie" case of age discrimination by showing that the stated reason for you termination doesn't make sense. If you consistently exceeded goals and were replaced by a much younger employee, that's a good start. If you can show  a prima facie case, then the company gets a chance to rebut it, by showing they had a legitimate reason. So, for example, if they show that they are in fact selling in a very different way now than before, that could show they legitimately took a different direction than you were going in.

From what you right, it would be worthwhile consulting with an employment attorney, who can evaluate your case in detail. Good luck.


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