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Employee Discrimination in the Workplace

By fpena324 Jan 15, 2012 1061 Words
Employee Discrimination in the Workplace
Law/531 – Business Law
December 19, 2011

Employee Discrimination in the Workplace
Throughout history our world has been forced to change the laws that govern us to keep up with how we evolve as a society. What was prevalent in the fifties is not the case in today’s time. Specifically the American workforces along with the laws and policies that govern them have truly evolved. Today American workers have protection from laws that were non-existent in the times of our parents. Often times, stories of how workers were discriminated against because of their race, age or gender seem preposterous and out of sort. In current times, the majority of Americans would find it appalling for a worker to lose their job based on their race, age or gender. The scenario presented for this week’s topic covers one of these types of discrimination – age discrimination. Age discrimination “involves treating someone (an applicant or employee) less favorably because of their age” (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.d.).

In the Employee Discrimination Scenario we meet Isabelle, an older worker employed by the Quick Takes Video (QTV) organization. Isabelle has been with QTV for five years in the capacity of receptionist; throughout that time she received no indication from QTV that her performance was lacking. It is easy to assume, based on how the scenario presented itself, that Isabelle was given the job to keep a client happy and that her manager never offered any negative feedback relating to her job performance. Karen, another QTV employee complained to Hal, the manager that Isabelle’s performance was now affecting the company. Karen claimed that Isabelle was slow, forgetful and did not follow instructions very well. Karen used several derogatory terms related to Isabelle’s age such as “old biddy”. She also made comments concerning the effect she believed Isabelle’s age had on her performance and the need to keep up with the “hip look of the organization and hire someone younger and sharper” (University of Phoenix, 2010). Hal somewhat agreed that Isabelle was “not the swiftest old lady” but felt it was not the right thing to do due to her tenure and attendance; however, in the end he let the pressure from Karen affect his decision and decided to terminate Isabelle’s employment. The reason he gave Isabelle for the termination was poor performance. There is strong evidence in this scenario to sustain that Isabelle’s firing violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) that “prohibits age discrimination in all employment decisions, including hiring, promotions, payment of compensation, and other terms and conditions of employment” (Cheeseman, H.R., p.521-522). The potential violations that occurred in this scenario are (1) the initial conversation between Karen and Hal where both of them made reference to Isabelle’s age and how it affected her performance; (2) the comments made by Karen that Isabelle’s job should go to someone younger and sharper; (3) the terms used by both Hal and Karen relating to Isabelle’s age – “old biddy” and “swiftest old lady”, and (4) the termination of Isabelle. In order to have a prosecutable age discrimination case Isabelle carries the initial burden of proof. She must show that she is in a protected class, that she is qualified to do the job she was fired from, and that there were circumstances that lead people to believe she might have been fired because of her age (University of Phoenix, 2010). Based on the facts presented in this scenario, Isabelle can prove that she is in a protected class because she is above the age of 40; she can prove that she is qualified for the job she was fired from because she did the job for five years without any complaints from her manager; and she can prove that there were circumstances that lead people to believe she might have been fired because of her age through the comments made by both Karen and Hal about the need to bring in someone younger to keep up with the times. Once Isabelle presents her proof she has what is called a prima facie case which is a “plaintiff's lawsuit or a criminal charge which appears at first blush to be open and shut” (ALM/Law.com, 2011) and now the burden of proof shits to QTV. The organization might try to argue that Isabelle was fired strictly for poor performance but they would have a difficult time doing so because of the lack of documentation relating to performance issues. For Isabelle to successfully file a lawsuit against QTV, she is required by law to first file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. The EEOC will then investigate the claim and determine whether or not a violation of the ADEA occurred. If no violation is found, the EEOC will give Isabelle a “Notice of Right to Sue” which gives her permission to file a lawsuit in court; if a violation is found, the EEOC will attempt to reach a voluntary settlement through mediation and if mediation is not successful then a determination will be made on whether or not the EEOC will file suit against the organization on Isabelle’s behalf (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.d).

Conclusion
Discrimination of any kind is troubling but unfortunately it is very much a part of our culture. It is important for workers and employers to be well versed in their rights and responsibilities regarding employment law. The scenario involving Isabelle and QTV has shown us the adverse effect that age discrimination can have on both the organization and the employee; it has also given us the opportunity to learn more about the ADEA and the involvement of the EEOC in cases such as this.

References
ALM/Law.com. (2011). prima facie case. Retrieved from http://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=1599 Cheeseman, H.R. (2010). Business Law. Legal Environment, Online Commerce, Business Ethics, and International Issues. Retrieved from University of Phoenix, Law/531 website. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (n.d.). Age Discrimination. Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/age.cfm Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (n.d.). Filing a Charge of Discrimination. Retrieved from http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/charge.cfm University of Phoenix. (2010). Employee Discrimination [Multimedia]. Retrieved from University of Phoenix, Law/531 website.

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