Human Resources News & Insights

Thanks, Judge: A foolproof checklist to avoid age-bias claims


A federal judge has just composed a checklist to help companies avoid age bias lawsuits.

Don’t get us wrong — the federal court’s not in the business of providing advice to employers on how to protect themselves from employment law violations.

But a recent ruling out of federal district court in Connecticut can serve as a pretty reliable outline of the kind of situations that can lead to charges of age discrimination.

Charge dismissed

The case involved Mary Barker, who worked for the financial services firm UBS in Stamford, CT. She was one of five over-40 employees out of eight terminated from her department in a overall reduction-in-force.

She sued, charging age discrimination. The district judge dismissed the case, saying she hadn’t been able to “show that she was fired under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discriminatory intent.”

But that’s not the interesting part.

This is. On pages 10-11 of Judge Christopher Droney’s opinion, he lays out scenarios that might lead a judge to come down on the side of an employee alleging age bias.

Here they are:

  • “employer criticisms of the plaintiff’s performance using degrading, age-related terms,
  • “invidious comments about others in the employee’s protected group,
  • “the transferring of plaintiff’s duties to younger employees,
  • “more favorable treatment of employees not in the protected group,
  • “the sequence of events leading to plaintiff’s discharge, or
  • “the termination of two out of three older employees but no younger employees.”

A pretty clear picture of what employers shouldn’t do when managing over-40 workers, we’d say. Thank you, Judge Droney.

The case is Barker v. UBS AG. For a look at the full decision, go here.

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