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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

A Common Discriminatory Employment Practice: The Failure To Recall Laid Off Older Workers

Office shelf with folders and age discrimination law.

Having represented age discrimination victims for more than two decades, our age discrimination lawyers in Citrus County, Florida know that older workers continue to face significant obstacles in their efforts to gain and retain employment. Employee layoffs is one of the many areas in employment law where older employees continue to endure systemic discrimination. Not only do employers target older workers for layoff, but employers also recall laid off younger employes while keeping laid off older employees on permanent layoff status. In other words, laid off younger employees get their job back, while laid off older employees never get their job back. In this article, our labor lawyers in Citrus County, Florida explain how the alleged facts in Strunk v. Airxcel, Inc.,Case No. 21-cv-1164 (D. Kan. Nov. 23, 2021) are illustrative of the disparate treatment older workers often experience in the layoff context.

Age Discrimination Lawsuit

In that case, a woman named Strunk brought an age discrimination claim against her former employer, Airxcel, Inc. (“Airxcel”), pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”). The ADEA makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against employees because of their age. Strunk alleges that Airxcel discharged her on the basis of age in violation of the ADEA.

Strunk was employed for 36 years by Airxcel at a factory where Airxcel manufactures air conditioners for recreational vehicles (“RVs”). In 2001, Strunk hurt her back while acting within the course of her employment with Airxcel and filed a workers’ compensation claim. In 2020, Strunk continued to experience back problems and asked for a job that would accommodate her back condition. According to Strunk, Airxcel told her “they were looking” but did not have any sit-down jobs available. Strunk contends that sit-down jobs were, in fact, available.

As a result of the COVID-19 slowdown, Strunk and a majority of Airxcel’s employees were laid off. Strunk received a letter on June 5, 2020 telling her that she was permanently laid off due to COVID-19. Prior to receiving the letter, Strunk had scheduled back surgery, but claims that Airxcel was not going to give her accommodations to work around her restrictions. Airxcel temporarily shut its doors in June 2020. The shut-down was short lived, however, as the COVID-19 crises led to a surge in demand for RVs. In fact, the factory was closed for only two weeks and then regained full capacity. Strunk alleges that Airxcel added new employees, most of whom were younger than Strunk and called back workers who were laid off. Strunk was not asked to return.

Strunk alleges that she was eager to return to work. Instead, “younger people were hired for jobs she was qualified for.” Strunk claims that the stated reason for her termination—the COVID-19 crises—was a pretextual excuse for firing her and that she was discharged because of her age.

Evidence Of Age Discrimination

Airxcel filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Strunk’s age discrimination claim. In moving for dismissal, Airxcel argued that Strunk failed to allege sufficient facts “tying [her] age to the decision to permanently end her employment in connection with the staff reductions.” In denying Airxcel’s motion for dismissal, the trial court ruled that Strunk had alleged sufficient facts “to state a plausible claim that she was terminated based on age.”

In denying Airxcel’s motion for dismissal, the trial court observed that Strunk alleges that Airxcel “falsely represented to her before the COVID-19 furloughs that there were no sit-down positions available, when in fact there were.” “An employer’s false representation about the availability of a job to an older worker,” the trial court reasoned, could “contribute to an inference of age discrimination.” The trial court also pointed out that Strunk alleges that “although a majority of employees were furloughed, [Airxcel] quickly resumed production” and “the workers who were furloughed were called back”—although Strunk was not—and Airxcel “hired new employees who were younger” than Strunk. Based on these allegations, the trial court concluded Strunk “has plausibly alleged that she was terminated under circumstances suggesting her age could have been a basis for her termination.”

Free Consultation For Discrimination Victims

One of the most critical decisions age discrimination victims must make is which age discrimination lawyers to consult with regarding their employee rights. As part of our dedication to protecting and vindicating the rights of older employees, an experienced age discrimination lawyer will speak with you personally and you will receive the individualized attention your case deserves. We offer free confidential case evaluations for employees, and you will not have to pay to speak with our age discrimination attorneys regarding your rights. We are available for consultation at your convenience, including scheduling telephone consultations for evenings and weekends.

Citrus County Age Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our age discrimination attorneys in Citrus County, Florida have fought for the rights of age discrimination victims for more than twenty years. If you have experienced age discrimination or have questions about your rights as an age discrimination victim, please contact our office for a free consultation with our age discrimination lawyers in Citrus County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes age discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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