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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.

Are Older Workers Protected From Hostile Work Environment Harassment?

Phrase Age is just a number. Wooden blocks with lettering on a blue background. Ageism concept.

During the past twenty years, our Marion County, Florida hostile work environment lawyers have fought for the rights of employees who have been required to work in a hostile environment. Having decades of experience representing hostile work environment harassment victims, our Ocala, Florida hostile work environment attorneys know that a common employment law myth is that hostile work environment sexual harassment is the only form of harassment prohibited by federal employment discrimination law. In other words, many employees mistakenly believe that unless they are required to work in a sexually hostile work environment, they have no protection from workplace harassment under federal employment discrimination law.

In this article, our Marion County, Florida hostile work environment lawyers explain how the decision in Diaz v. Jiten Hotel Management, Inc., 762 F.Supp.2d 319 (D. Mass. 2011)demonstrates that older employees are protected from harassment on the basis of age under federal employment discrimination law.

Protection From Age Harassment

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of age. Under well-established law, age-based harassment is a form of age discrimination forbidden by the ADEA. To violate the ADEA, age-based harassment must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile work environment. Once an employer has notice of age-based harassment, the employer is obligated by the ADEA to take prompt and effective remedial action to stop the harassment and prevent recurrence of the harassment. When the employer takes no remedial action, or the remedial action does not stop the harassment, the employer is liable for the age-based hostile work environment harassment. Under such circumstances, the employer has created and maintained an age-based hostile work environment in violation of the ADEA.

Age Harassment Lawsuit

In Diaz, a woman named Diaz brought an age-based harassment lawsuit against her former employer, Jiten Hotel Management, Inc. (JHM), pursuant to the ADEA. Diaz maintains that JHM required her to work in an age-based hostile work environment during her years as the head housekeeper at the Holiday Inn Express. Diaz was in her at fifties at the time of the alleged age-based harassment.

Diaz alleges that after twenty-two years of excellent service and two Department Head of the Year awards, she was suddenly denied review and the corresponding annual raises. Diaz maintains that her direct supervisor, Patel, repeatedly subjected her to unwanted age-based derogatory remarks. For example, Patel allegedly repeatedly asked her when she was going to retire, told her that she was getting old, and called her an “old pumpkin,” an “old shoe,” and an “old hankie.” Diaz also alleges that Patel reprimanded her in front of her co-workers, told her to “shut up,” gave her assignments and then criticized her for doing them, and undermined her authority in the presence of her subordinates. Patel also told one of Diaz’s substantially younger staff members, Fazio, that he would like to promote her to Diaz’s position because Diaz was getting too old, and he did not know if she could perform the job anymore.

Older Workers Targeted For Harassment

According to Diaz, Patel’s discriminatory attitude towards older people was not limited to her. When Diaz hired a laundry attendant who was fifty-two years old, Patel allegedly told her, “You’re going to turn this hotel into a nursing home.” Fazio also observed that Patel treated older workers more harshly than younger employees. According to Fazio, Patel referred to an employee in his fifties, Betances, as an “old man.” Another employee stated that Patel would ridicule Betances because he could not lift a five-gallon container of laundry detergent and told him that he was “too old to do this job.

Diaz alleges that Patel’s behavior had a ripple effect as other managers and co-workers began to view her as too old. One employee, Lopez-Vanegas, admitted to referring to Diaz as “old lady.” Another employee, Suero, testified that he was asked to sign a written statement prepared by the Director of Sales that referred to Diaz as a “lonely old lady.” He signed the statement, including untrue facts, out of fear of losing his job.

Hostile Work Environment Harassment

JHM filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Diaz’s age-based harassment claim. In moving for dismissal, JHM maintained that the alleged harassment was not sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of her employment and create a hostile work environment in violation of the ADEA. The trial court denied JHM’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Diaz’s evidence was “more than sufficient” to establish that she was required to work in an age-based hostile work environment in violation of the ADEA.

The trial court explained that Diaz presented evidence that Patel treated “her differently than her younger colleagues in terms of general harassment, disparate discipline, and denial of pay raises.” The trial court also pointed out that Patel allegedly subjected Diaz to derogatory age-based insults, calling her an “old pumpkin,” an “old shoe,” and an “old hankie.” “When she hired another person over forty,” the trial court noted, “she was told that she was turning the place into a nursing home.” The trial court also observed that Diaz introduced evidence that Patel treated other older workers poorly and, “worse, that management required at least one of them to sign false statements about Diaz.” Based on this evidence, the trial court concluded, a reasonable jury could find that JHM created and maintained an age-based hostile working environment.

Marion County, FL Harassment Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our hostile work environment lawyers in Marion County, Florida have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of employment discrimination victims. If you been required to work in a hostile environment or have questions about your protection against hostile work environment harassment under federal employment discrimination law, please contact our office for a free consultation with our hostile work environment lawyers in Marion County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes hostile work environment 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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