One of the bigger challenges many older workers face in seeking out new jobs is competing against younger applicants. Some employers may subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) tilt the hiring process toward those younger applicants, culling the older applicants at the initial stage or, at least, very early in the process. If that has happened to you, the employer may have engaged in illegal age discrimination. Here in Georgia, you potentially have the option of both state law and federal law claims for age discrimination. By working with the right Atlanta age discrimination lawyer, you can develop a plan best tailored to generate success in your case.
G.E. was one of those older workers. The Suwanee-based sales professional was in her early 50s when she began applying for available sales representative jobs with a major pharmaceutical company’s diabetes and primary care areas in 2018. After each application, the employer allegedly summarily rejected G.E. or rejected her after only an initial interview.
According to G.E.’s age discrimination lawsuit, none of this happened by accident or coincidence. The employer allegedly had a policy of skewing toward “Millenials” and “Early Career Professionals” in its hiring for positions like the ones G.E. sought. In fact, the employer allegedly had extreme hiring quotas, where managers sought to fill some sales positions with at least 40% Millenials, all the way up to 100% Millenials for other jobs.
Based on these alleged discriminatory practices, G.E. sued the pharmaceutical firm. In her lawsuit, she sought compensation under not one but two different laws. One was the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the other was the Georgia Age Discrimination Act (GADA).
Federal law may be uniquely helpful if you’re over 70…
The ADEA and the GADA have many similarities and many older workers are protected by both of them. There are, however, some important distinctions. The GADA, for example, prohibits age-based discrimination against workers or job candidates who are between the ages of 40 and 70. The ADEA, by contrast, bars age-based discrimination against anyone age 40 and above. Clearly, as a woman in her 50s during the relevant period, G.E. was covered by both of these laws. If, however, she had been in her 70s, it would have been important to focus solely on an ADEA claim and not a claim under the Georgia law.
… but Georgia law may be what you need if you’re suing a small or public entity
In other situations, though, Georgia’s age discrimination law may be what can best help you. That’s because size matters in terms of the employer you’re suing. Only employers that are private ones with 20 or more employees are required to comply with the ADEA. The Georgia statute, on the other hand, covers all private and public employers regardless of the number of employees the employer has. G.E. was suing a private company that employs thousands of people so, in terms of size, both claims were available to her. If, however, the entity that had allegedly denied her employment applications because of her age had been a small one or a public one, then the GADA would have been the proper basis for pursuing a claim.
‘Disparate treatment’ vs. ‘disparate impact’: why the distinction may be very important
It is also important to understand that, even though age discrimination laws like the ADEA protect both workers and job applicants, there are differences as to the legal options available to each. A few years ago, the federal 11th Circuit Court of Appels, whose rulings directly control federal cases in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, said that, while employees were permitted under the law to pursue their claims under either a “disparate impact” or “disparate treatment” theory of discrimination, job applicants could only proceed if they could show disparate treatment.
Disparate treatment, as the name implies, means that you were treated differently expressly because of your age. Disparate impact means that an employer’s age-neutral policies had the effect of functionally discriminating against older workers in the outcomes those policies produced. Think of it this way: if an employer issues a policy that says “no new hires over the age of 40,” that is potentially illegal disparate treatment. If the employer’s policy instead said “no new hires with gray hair,” that is a potential case of disparate impact. The latter policy is age-neutral on its face, but it clearly has the potential to harm workers over 40 disproportionately.
G.E.’s legal team, in her complaint, was careful to allege that the conduct that formed the basis of her lawsuit “constituted unjustified disparate treatment,” which meant that, even as a job applicant, she could still pursue both GADA and ADEA claims.
As you can see from G.E.’s lawsuit, many different variables and permutations exist in an age discrimination complaint. Is your case one of disparate impact or disparate treatment? Is yours a state law case, federal law case, or both? To make sure you have the answers you can trust, as well as the advice and advocacy you need, look to the experienced Atlanta age discrimination attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert. Our firm is dedicated to helping workers victimized by age and other forms of illegal discrimination. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation regarding your situation.