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Lawyers For Victims
Of Age Harassment
The Employee's Voice And Advocate

Age Harassment Lawyers In Marion County, FL

For almost twenty years, our Marion County, Florida age discrimination attorneys have been in the trenches fighting for the rights of employees who have been required to work in a hostile environment. Although employees are entitled to a workplace free from discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult, older workers continue to endure derogatory ageist remarks, stigmatizing stereotypes, and abuse because of their age. Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, including Citrus, Marion, and Alachua Counties, we are dedicated to vindicating the rights of older employees and forcing employers who tolerate an age-based hostile work environment to change their employment practices.

Legal Protection Against Age Discrimination

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which is federal law, and the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA), which is Florida law, prohibit an employer from discriminating against employees on the basis of age. The ADEA and FCRA prohibit discrimination based on age against employees aged 40 and over. The ADEA and FCRA protect employees against discrimination on the basis of age with respect to the entire spectrum of the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.

The Purpose Of The ADEA

Congress enacted the ADEA in 1967. In the text of the ADEA, Congress stated that a principal reason for passing the ADEA was “to promote the employment of older persons based on their ability rather than age.” As the U.S. Supreme Court observed in Hazen Paper Co. v. Biggins, 507 U.S. 604 (19930, “it is the very essence of age discrimination for an older employee to be [discriminated against] because the employer believes that productivity and competence decline with age.” Thus, as the Supreme Court explained in EEOC v. Wyoming, 460 U.S. 226 (1983), Congress’ promulgation of the ADEA was prompted by its concern that older workers were being deprived of employment on the basis of inaccurate and stigmatizing stereotypes. Consequently, as the Supreme Court ruled in Western Air Lines v. Criswell, 472 U.S. 400 (1985), the ADEA mandates that “employers are to evaluate [older] employees . . . on their merits and not their age.”

Age Harassment Is A Form Of Age Discrimination

In Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal employment discrimination laws “afford[ ] employees the right to work in an environment free from discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult” on the basis of age. In applying Meritor, courts have held that age harassment which creates a hostile work environment is a form of age discrimination prohibited by the ADEA and FCRA. Thus, employees may establish a violation of the ADEA and FCRA by showing that an employer required them to work in a hostile or abusive work environment.

Age-Based Hostile Work Environment Harassment

Under the ADEA and FCRA, an actionable claim for age harassment exists when the harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s work employment and create a hostile or abusive work environment. To create a hostile or abusive work environment, the age-based abusive conduct does not have to be both severe and pervasive; one or the other will do. Age-based abusive conduct is deemed severe when it involves derogatory ageist remarks or physical abuse. Age-based abusive conduct is deemed pervasive when it is persistent or continuous. If the harassment was not so severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile or abusive work environment, an employer cannot be held liable for the harassment.

Analyzed Just Like Sexual Harassment Cases

Just as employees are protected against age harassment in the workplace, employees are also protected against sexual and racial harassment. Age-based hostile work environment claims are analyzed under the same standard as those based on sexual and racial harassment. To establish a prima facie cases of hostile work environment harassment on the basis of age, an employee must show that: (1) the employee is at least 40 years of age; (2) the employee has been subjected to unwelcome harassment; (3) the harassment was based on the employee’s age; (4) the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment; and (5) a basis for holding the employer liable for the harassment.

Defining Age Harassmen

The type of conduct constituting age harassment can take a variety of forms, both verbal and physical. Generally, age harassment involves conduct that occurs because of the victim’s age. Stated another way, the harasser targets the victim for harassment because of the victim’s age. The type of conduct that occurs because of the victim’s age and constitutes a form of age harassment includes:

  • * Derogatory ageist remarks about the victim.
  • * Age-based insults or slurs about the victim.
  • * Derogatory age-based jokes about the victim.
  • * Remarks made about the victim reflecting negative age stereotypes.
  • * Remarks reflecting hostility or animosity towards older workers, including the victim.
  • * Remarks reflecting a preference for younger workers.
  • * Treating the victim differently or less favorably from younger employees.
  • * Any other conduct, whether verbal or physical, that is motivated by the victim’s age.

Harassment Not Limited To Explicitly Age-Based Conduct

ecause the most important factor with respect to a hostile work environment harassment claim is the nature of the victim’s work environment, courts have recognized that a broad range of conduct can contribute to the creation of a hostile work environment. In doing so, courts have determined that employees may rely on age-neutral conduct to bolster an age harassment claim when the harasser engaged in multiple acts of harassment, some explicitly based on age and some not. As observed by the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in Watson v. Ceva Logistics, U.S., Inc., 617 F.3d 936 (8th Cir. 2010), “all instances of harassment need not be stamped with signs of overt discrimination if they are part of a course of conduct tied to evidence of discriminatory animus.”

As explained by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Chavez v. New Mexico, 397 F.3d 826 (10th Cir. 2005), “conduct that appears [age]-neutral in isolation may in fact be [age]-based, but may appear so only when viewed in the context of other [age]-based behavior.” When there is evidence of age-based abusive conduct, such evidence serves to establish that age-neutral incidents of harassment were, in fact, motivated by the victim’s age and part of a pattern of age-based harassment. Indeed, when viewed in the context of other age-based abusive conduct, age-neutral incidents of harassment, such as denial of support, exclusion, unfair treatment, yelling, insults, work sabotage, and physical threats, are also based on the victim’s age and contribute to a hostile work environment. So long as there is some evidence of explicitly age-based abusive conduct, age-neutral incidents of harassment are included among the totality of circumstances that courts consider in any hostile work environment harassment claim.

Harassment Of Others Is Part Of Work Environment

“Whether an environment is hostile or abusive,” as explained by the U.S. Supreme Court in Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17 (1993), “can only be determined by looking at all the circumstances.” Indeed, as observed by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Hernandez v. Valley View Hosp. Ass’n, 684 F.3d 950 (10th Cir. 2012), “the totality of the circumstances is the touchstone of a hostile environment analysis.” Thus, the determination of whether workplace harassment was severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment depends on the totality of the circumstances of the victim’s entire work environment.

As determined by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Dawson v. County of Westchester, 373 F.3d 265 (2d Cir. 2004), “because the crucial inquiry focuses on the nature of the workplace environment as a whole, an [employee] who herself experiences discriminatory harassment need not be the target of other instances of hostility in order for those incidents to support her claim.” Under the totality of the circumstances approach, acts of age-based harassment towards other employees or third-parties, including ageist remarks, age-based insults or slurs, and age-based jokes, are part of the victim’s work environment and contribute to the creation of a hostile work environment. Thus, evidence of age-based abusive conduct directed at other employees and third-parties can help prove a claim of age-based hostile work environment harassment so long as the victim knew about the offending behavior.

Examples Of Age Harassment From Lawsuits

For purposes of illustration, set forth below are examples of age-based acts of harassment taken from actual age-based harassment lawsuits filed in federal and state courts. As the examples reflect, employees have brought age-based harassment lawsuits against employers based on a broad range of age-related abusive conduct.

  • * Derogatory ageist remarks about the victim.
  • * Age-based insults or slurs about the victim.
  • * Derogatory age-based jokes about the victim.
  • * Remarks made about the victim reflecting negative age stereotypes.
  • * Remarks reflecting hostility or animosity towards older workers, including the victim.
  • * Remarks reflecting a preference for younger workers.
  • * Treating the victim differently or less favorably from younger employees.
  • * Any other conduct, whether verbal or physical, that is motivated by the victim’s age.

Employer Liability For Age Harassment

Once an employer knows or should know that an employee is being harassed on the basis of age, the employer must take prompt and proper remedial action to prevent the harassment from recurring. As explained by the U.S. Eleventh Circuit of Appeals in Kilgore v. Thompson & Brock Management, Inc., 93 F.3d 752 (11th Cir. 1996), “the remedial action must be reasonably likely to prevent the misconduct from recurring.” If the employer takes no remedial action or inadequate steps are taken to prevent the recurrence of the harassment, then the employer can be held liable under the ADEA and FCRA.

Protection Against Retaliation

Under the ADEA and FCRA, employees are protected from retaliation when they complain about perceived age harassment in the workplace—regardless of whether the complaint is about perceived age harassment towards them or other employees. To be protected from retaliation under the ADEA and FCRA, an employee does not have to prove that the harassing conduct was ultimately sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile or abusive work environment in violation of the ADEA or FCRA. Rather, an employee only has to show that he or she possessed a good faith, reasonable belief that the harassing behavior was unlawful discrimination. In other words, employees are protected from retaliation even if they are wrong about whether the harassment legally constituted age-based hostile work environment harassment in violation of the ADEA or FCRA.

Employment Law Blog

As part of an on-going commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, our Marion County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys offer more information about age discrimination and harassment in their employment law blog.

Free Consultation With Central Florida Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, including Citrus, Marion, and Alachua Counties, our employment discrimination attorneys have extensive experience litigating age discrimination and harassment cases in federal and Florida courts. If you have experienced age discrimination or harassment in the workplace, please contact our Marion County, Florida age discrimination lawyers for a free initial consultation. You will receive personalized and individual attention from our Marion County, Florida employment law attorneys. Our employee rights law firm takes age discrimination and harassment cases on a contingency fee basis and if we fail to recover on your behalf, we do not get paid. Our employment discrimination attorneys are ready to take your discrimination case and fight for your rights.

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