A recent appeals court ruling in Chicago, which is similar to another earlier outcome in Atlanta, could have a chilling effect on the discrimination protections in place for older workers.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that job seekers have fewer rights than already hired workers under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). This seriously restricts the federal law in place to protect job seekers age 40 and up from facing discrimination due to their age. The judges ruled that some of the major provisions of the law solely apply to employees and not those merely seeking employment.
The decision was 8-4 and was authored by a Trump appointee. The circuit judge stated the ADEA’s “plain language” shows that the intent of Congress was to provide protection against discrimination for those who had already gotten hired and that this same protection “did not extend . . . to outside job applicants.”
One of the dissenting judges shot back an accusation that the majority had taken a “deliberately naive approach” to their interpretation of the law. The judge said his colleagues were “closing [their] eyes to fifty years of history, context and application.”
The appeals court ruling was for a case involving a lawyer from Illinois. In 2014, the attorney turned 58 and he applied for a position as senior counsel a company that makes medical devices. He lost out on an interview and the company subsequently hired a 29-year-old for the position.
At the time of the ruling, the plaintiff’s attorneys hadn’t decided whether they intended to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Atlanta ruling took place in 2016 when the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that an unemployed 49-year-old executive suffered no age discrimination after a subcontractor a tobacco company tossed out his and nearly 20,000 other resumes, as per company guidelines when hiring a regional sales manager.
The company’s attorneys claimed that if the law was interpreted to include applicants as well as employees, it could affect the hiring of interns and young people at entry-level positions, as well as make companies bear the onus of “massive litigation costs.”
Were you passed over for hire due to your age? If you believe that you were, speak to your attorney to learn if and how these decisions might affect your case.