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Protection against WV Age Discrimination at Work
Age discrimination in West Virginia (WV) is not something many people talk about. However, it is a real issue for real people. Nobody should be singled out because of age, especially when it comes to employment or other factors that can influence a person’s future. While age discrimination may make a person feel bad, it goes much deeper than that. It is against the law. As a result, employers must take action to prevent and address WV age discrimination, and employees must report age discrimination when it occurs.
WV age discrimination at work takes many forms.
What Is Age Discrimination?
Age discrimination involves treating people unfavorably based on their age. This could include:
- Not promoting an individual because of age-related issues
- Firing an individual because of age
- Singling out an individual based on age
- Not hiring an individual based on age
- Indicating age restrictions on a job application
However, there are a number of other instances that could be considered age discrimination in WV. The law specifically protects people who are 40 or older. This is in response to the older population not receiving fair access to employment or advances based completely on their age. Statistically, this group consists of employees who are most likely to be the focus of such bias.
How Does the Law Protect People against WV Age Discrimination?
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) has made this a federal issue, which means that all states must follow this law. Any business that operates with 20 or more employees must adhere to this national law.
In addition, age discrimination in WV employment is prohibited by the WV Human Rights Act for employers with 12 or more employees. An employer’s failure to abide by this law allows a targeted employee to file a complaint with the WV Human Rights Commission (HRC) or a lawsuit in WV state court.
The Gray Area of the Law
While the law is certainly intended to protect, there are a few gray areas. For example, the law is not designed to protect younger workers.
The general idea is that people who are the focus of this type of bias are part of the aging community. This is not to say that younger people may not fall victim to of this type of treatment; however, the law does not focus on younger people.
Additionally, if an employer claims that an individual is “over-qualified,” this does not necessarily mean it is age discrimination although many people feel that it may be “code” for saying that an employee is too old for the job.
What Should You Do?
If you or someone you know is the victim of WV age discrimination, do not sit idly by as your rights are being violated. You can reach out to a knowledgeable attorney and also file a complaint.
To file a complaint, reach out to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This group is in charge of regulating the process associated with workplace discrimination, and you can locate its local WV office on its website. You may also choose to file a complaint with the WVHRC.
Seek Legal Advice for WV Age Discrimination
Have you or someone you know been a victim of age discrimination? Know that the law protects your right to employment despite your age. If you suspect that you have been unjustly terminated or singled out due to your age, reach out to those who can help you. The attorneys at Hendrickson & Long have been providing quality legal defense in WV age discrimination matters for a number of years. Allow their experience to work for you and contact them today to create the legal solution you deserve.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act in WV
If you’re considering any reductions in force or making changes to your employee performance evaluation protocols, it’s important to analyze the effect any such changes may have on your older employees. Any changes in employment that have a “disparate impact” on employees 40 years or older put you at risk for violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). West Virginia (WV)-based employers with questions about the application of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in WV have a valuable resource available to them: the employer defense attorneys at Hendrickson & Long, PLLC.
The Basics of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in WV
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (also known as the “ADEA”) is a federal law that places workers aged 40 and older among the protected classes in the federal statutory framework that prohibits discrimination in employment-related decisions. It is part of a series of federal laws that prohibit employers from making employment decisions based on the following criteria:
- Age (40 or older)
- Genetic information
- Race, citizenship status, color, or national origin
- Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions)
In addition to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, WV law prohibits discrimination in employment decisions based on any of the following: age (40 and older), race, color, national origin, religion, sex, physical or mental disability, blindness, AIDS/HIV status, and a person’s off-duty tobacco usage.
You Could Be Found Liable under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in WV
The ADEA regulations state that even if your company practice is age-neutral on its face, if it has the indirect effect of harming older workers to a greater degree than younger workers, then your practice violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. In employment litigation, this is known as “disparate impact,” as opposed to “disparate treatment,” which refers to the intentional discrimination against a protected class of workers. The only thing a plaintiff has to do in this instance is show a statistical disparity in the effects of your practice to win, unless you have a valid legal defense of the practice.
What Defenses Exist for WV Employers in Age Discrimination in Employment Act Lawsuits?
A common and useful defense against age discrimination claims is the “Reasonable Factors Other than Age” defense. Simply put, this means that your employment practice was based on reasonable factors other than age. Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory. This is an affirmative defense, meaning that the burden of proof is on the employer.
Federal regulations define “a reasonable factor other than age” as “a non-age factor that is objectively reasonable when viewed from the position of a prudent employer mindful of its responsibilities under the ADEA under like circumstances.”
To show that your factors are “objectively” reasonable, an employer must show that the “practice was both reasonably designed to further or achieve a legitimate business purpose and administered in a way that reasonably achieves that purpose in light of the particular facts and circumstances that were known, or should have been known, to the employer.”
According to the same regulation, when trying to determine whether your reason is objectively reasonable, you should consider the following:
- The extent to which the factor is related to your stated business purpose
- The extent to which you have defined the factor accurately and applied it fairly
- The extent to which managers and supervisors were given guidance or training about how to apply the factor so that they avoided discrimination
- The extent to which you limited supervisory discretion in areas subject to negative age-based stereotypes
- The extent to which you analyzed beforehand the potential adverse impact your employment practice would have on older workers
- The degree of harm to older workers and the steps you took to mitigate harm
Does the Age Discrimination in Employment Act Apply to “Younger Workers” in WV?
For some time, the law in WV was that for age discrimination to have occurred, the “younger” employee had to be under 40 years old. See Young v. Bellofram Corporation. However, in 2016, the WV Supreme Court ruled that a plaintiff could sometimes establish a prima facie case of age discrimination even if the employee who was treated more favorably was also 40 or older.
What Should You Do as an Employer?
If you are a WV employer facing an Age Discrimination in Employment Act matter in WV, you have a number of options available to you. First, knowledge of the law is essential, so a visit to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or West Virginia Human Rights Commission websites may help. And when you need a lawyer with experience in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in WV, contact Hendrickson & Long. Our attorneys have vast experience defending federal and state age discrimination lawsuits in WV, Kentucky (KY), and Pennsylvania (PA), and we are here to help you. Contact us today: 304-346-5500.