Age Discrimination in Employment

Several months before, a female employee, despite her commendable performance and long-standing record with a certain pharmaceutical company, was discharged from her work. The company cites the current economic crisis as the reason for laying-off several employees including the female employee. However, records show that the employee’s age was already 45 at the time of her discharge and that she was a consistent employee of the month in the local pharmaceutical branch she worked at for more than two decades.

Although she was given the legally prescribed severance packages and compensation, the employee believes that she is still able to perform her job efficiently. In the long run, it was her belief that she was discriminated based on her age. She filed a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company and, after several weeks, the case was settled outside of court. She returned to her work and continues to work under the same pharmaceutical company to this day.

Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, it is prohibited for employers to discharge an employee based on the employee’s age. More specifically, Section 623 of the United States Code or Section 4 of ADEA states that “it shall be unlawful for an employer” to “discharge any individual” because of “such individual’s age” (ADEA 1967 §4). Historically speaking, the ADEA is generally based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which sought the prohibition of discrimination in the workplace based on a person’s national roots, color, religion or race.

Apparently, prohibitions against workplace discrimination based on age were not yet enforced or realized at the time. After a study conducted by the US Labor Department, it was found out that there was a wide discrimination based on a person’s age in the American workforce. As a result, the Congress initially came-up with the ADEA as a legal means to protect employees aged 40 to 65 from unlawful discharge and other forms of discrimination based on their age.

Through the following years, the Act was amended accordingly. Section 4 of the ADEA provides the strongest legal defense of the female employee against the discharge issued by the pharmaceutical company. Although the trial of the case did not go through the end, it was clear that the female employee had the safeguard of the law. Initially, however, the pharmaceutical company raised an argument to its defense.

Their argument is that the economic crisis sweeping local American pharmaceutical companies and any other company for that matter has forced them to make the necessary workforce adjustments in order to either cover their financial losses or avoid further financial meltdown. A part of the pharmaceutical company’s measure to address the economic concern is to discharge at least 200 employees across several of its branches. The female employee was the only employee aged 40 years above who was included in the discharged personnel.

This defense is weak simply because, in 2002, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 20,000 age discrimination complaints which include discharge based on the economic slump and the aging workforce (Agarwal, 2008). Shortly a year thereafter, the EEOC attained the largest settlement pay of $250 million out of the complaints lodged. The 2002 complaints show that the economic slump is not a firm excuse to discharge employees based on their age. The cases stand as precedents for future similar cases which, for the most part, include the case of the female employee in a pharmaceutical store.