Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Age Discrimination Claims in the Age of Layoffs

Stale economies inevitably result in layoffs. As revenues dip, employers make tough decisions to balance budgets. Impacted employers often choose to layoff high-salary workers to cut costs. Firing high wage earners generally hurts older employees, and the courts are often called upon to determine whether eliminating high-salary workers, who happen to be over 40 years of age, is age discrimination.

A recent decision in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is an example of the courts’ general reluctance to second guess an employer’s cost-saving choices, even when said choices harm older employees. Schechner v. KPIX-TV was about two forty-plus year old bay area television news reporters whose positions were eliminated by a local news station. During the case an expert statistician showed that the layoffs disparately affected older workers. In response, the employer claimed that the statistics did not explain differences in types of jobs, such as the difference between an anchor versus a general assignment reporter.

The Ninth Circuit held that the plaintiffs could use statistics as some evidence of discrimination. The statistics alone, however, were not enough to overcome their employer’s excuse that they were targeted for termination because they worked as general assignment reporters, and the argument that there was no discrimination because the very same individuals who had recently extended the plaintiffs’ contracts were the ones that made the decision to let the plaintiffs go.

You should contact an attorney experienced in matters involving employment law as soon as possible, if you believe you are the subject of discrimination.