During the recession many companies in Massachusetts have been laying off or firing employees who are older workers. Employees who have been let go are often concerned that their employer may have violated Massachusetts or federal age discrimination laws.
Laws, including Massachusetts General Laws 151B and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), provide protections to employees and prohibit discrimination in employment. An employer may not legally subject an employee to an “adverse action” in employment because of the employee’s age, if the employee is over the age of forty. These adverse actions may include the following: (1) firing the employee; (2) refusing to hire; (3) refusing to promote; (4) harassing an employee based upon age; (4) selecting older workers for lay-off because of their age; or (5) discriminating based upon age in providing compensation or benefits.
In order to make out a case for age discrimination, an employee has to show not only that he or she was over the age of forty, but that the employee was meeting the company’s legitimate job performance expectations and was replaced by an employee who was at least five years younger, or that the company had a layoff where it targeted older workers.
Companies often defend age discrimination cases by claiming (1) that the employee was not qualified for the position; (2) the employee had job performance issues or (3) the employee lacked the skills for the position. Companies also defend age discrimination cases by stating that there was a legitimate business reason for the decision that was not driven by age-related considerations.
It is important to know that there are short time frames for bringing Massachusetts age discrimination claims, and individuals who believe they have been discrimiminated against should not wait to take action.
For a free consultation to discuss an individual situation, please contact Boston, Massachusetts labor and employment attorney Maura Greene at 617-936-1580.