When Ageist Insults Can Factor into a Federal Age Discrimination Case in Georgia

The emergence of memes involving the derisive phrase “OK boomer” is a reminder that age-based bias is as pervasive as ever (if not more so) across America and here in Georgia. While some age-biased insults may be merely rude or in poor taste, other times, they represent something very profoundly damaging and harmful. When this kind of injurious conduct occurs in the workplace, it may represent an instance of illegal age discrimination. Whether you are an employer or an older employee, if you think you’re dealing with age discrimination issues, contact an experienced Atlanta age discrimination lawyer to find out what your next steps should be.

“OK boomer” may be the most on-trend age-related barb, but it is far from the only one. Recently, one Georgia worker reached a successful settlement of her Age Discrimination in Employment Act case where those sorts of issues played a role.

The employee, L.C., was an Atlanta-area woman who worked for a major information services company in a sales representative role. According to the employee’s ADEA lawsuit filed here in the Northern District of Georgia last June, L.C.’s supervisor called her names like “old dinosaur” and also opined that she was so old that she could not figure out newer technologies.

The employee’s case was strong enough that she achieved a settlement of her claims, which was reached in March.

Age Discrimination and the ‘Severe or Pervasive’ Standard

When it comes to a potential instance of illegal age discrimination, a single utterance of “OK boomer,” ‘Gramps,” or “Dinosaur” likely isn’t enough to constitute a violation of the ADEA. In order to constitute a violation, federal discrimination law – including the ADEA – requires proof that the discrimination was “severe” or “pervasive.” “Severe” but isolated discrimination that makes for a viable case generally involves proof of something highly extreme, like the usage of the “n-word” in a race discrimination case or an instance of unwanted groping in a sexual harassment case.

Even in the absence of anything severe like the above examples, employers still should not simply overlook or dismiss age-biased insults in their workplaces. Evidence that a workplace contained repeated uses of age-related slurs may be enough to substantiate a claim that the employer tolerated a culture of age-related bias or that a worker endured “pervasive” discrimination.

Furthermore, a worker doesn’t have to actually be over the age of 40 to win an age discrimination case. The law says that a worker can succeed in an ADEA claim if he/she was an older worker or if he/she was perceived to be older and that perception fueled an age-related animus that led to an adverse action.

Workers and employers should also take heed that age-related animus need not be the employer’s sole motivation for a worker’s ADEA lawsuit to succeed. In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in favor of a Veterans Administration pharmacist in her age discrimination case. In that ruling, the court said that the ADEA “demands that personnel actions be untainted by any consideration of age,” meaning that a worker can succeed as long as age was one of the factors fueling the employer.

If you’re an employer who’s received a complaint of age discrimination or you’re a worker who encountered age discrimination, don’t wait to get the advice you need about what to do to protect your rights or your business. The knowledgeable Atlanta age discrimination attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert have in-depth familiarity with ADEA law and can give you the reliable information you need. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation today.

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