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Articles Posted in Age Discrimination

A discriminatory trend has begun to become overlooked while many major companies review their anti-discrimination policies in the wake of the #metoo movement. Age discrimination remains very common in the United States, and particularly common in the technology industry. According to the EEOC, 70% of employees in the technology industry have witnessed or experienced age discrimination, while 40% of older tech workers report that they are worried about losing their jobs because of their advancing age. These statistics are highlighted by the recent influx of high-profile age discrimination suits filed against tech employers including Google and IBM. These cases have served to remind Americans that age discrimination is still rampant and must be kept in mind when pushing diversification agendas. 

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Google, or Alphabet, Inc., is one big technology corporation that has been hit hard with age discrimination suits over the last few years. The most recent of which, Robert Heath v. Google, Inc., finally reached a settlement on Friday, July 19th, in California. The current settlement offer would force Google to pay $11 million to job applicants who allege that they experienced age discrimination during their application processes. 

Mr. Robert Heath was a highly skilled engineer, with exceptional qualifications and over 30 years of experience in the field. Several years ago, Mr. Heath was recruited to submit an application for a job at Google and was subsequently offered a technical interview as a final step in the process. Mr. Heath’s interviewer was late to the interview and continuously interrupted Mr. Heath while he was answering questions. The interviewer refused to use Google’s own interface to transmit part of the technical portion of the interview, instead forcing Mr. Heath to recite lines of code over the phone. The interviewer did not engage in good faith with Mr. Heath, intentionally disrupting the interview and sabotaging Mr. Heath’s chances of being hired. Following the interview, Mr. Heath was denied the position at Google. 

The New Jersey Appellate Division has reversed the trial court’s dismissal of an out of state resident’s claim of age discrimination under New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.  The decision is an important reminder to employers that New Jersey’s strong public policy to eradicate discriminate in all its ugly forms may extend to non-New Jersey residents who suffer from discrimination that is protected under the New Jersey state law.

In the case Trevejo v. Legal Cost Control, Inc., and John Marquess, the employee, Susan Trevejo, lived in Massachusetts and worked remotely from her home for the employer, whose principal place of business was located in Haddonfield, New Jersey.  In claiming that she had standing to sue under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, Ms. Trevejo pointed out the fact that she was provided a company computer to connect to the company’s corporate server in New Jersey and a company phone to communicate with other company employees, some of whom lived and worked in New Jersey.  The employer argued that Ms. Trevino was never a resident of New Jersey at any point in her employment, never lived in New Jersey and never sought or received any benefits from the state of New Jersey.  The employer also pointed out the fact that although Ms. Trevejo had traveled to New Jersey for business at times during her employment, she had not done so any time from 2009 through 2015.

Twelve years into her employment, the employer terminated Ms. Trevejo’s employment. In response, Ms. Trevejo filed a lawsuit alleging age discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.  During the lawsuit, Ms. Trevejo’s employment lawyers requested broad discovery to prove she was entitled to pursue her age discrimination claims under New Jersey’s discrimination laws, including the nature and substance of her electronic and other virtual contact and connection to the employers’ New Jersey office as part of her day-to-day work activities.

The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey denied defendants motion for summary judgment in favor of the employee. The court held that that the Plaintiff employee established a prima facie case of age discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) finding ambiguity in the terms of his termination and defendants different reason for termination in summary judgment raised genuine issues of material facts and potential pretext for discrimination. Although the Court concluded there was no direct evidence of age discrimination, the Court used the McDonnell Douglas burden shifting analysis to determine that defendant’s stated non-discriminatory reason for Plaintiff’s termination could be a pretext for age discrimination in violation of the NJLAD.

In Buchholz v. Victor Printing Inc., the Plaintiff, Mr. Richard Buchholz worked at Victor Printing Inc. as a pressman from June 1986 through 2006. In 2006, Victor Printing reduced Mr. Buchholz’ hours to three days a week claiming that there was less work available for Mr. Buchholz because he was not trained on the new multi-color press machines that Victor Printing had acquired. Following the reduction in hours, Plaintiff accepted a full time job as a driver and his compensation remained the same at $17.50 per hour. He was then 63 years old. In 2008, Mr. Buchholz survived a lay off in which eight other Victor Printing employees were terminated.

A series of incidents occurred in the five months preceding Mr. Buchholz’ termination involving complaints from individuals who came in contact with Mr. Buchholz while he was driving the Victor Printing van. An individual called Victor Printing and complained about an encounter he had with Mr. Buchholz where Mr. Buchholz confronted the driver about his driving and got out of the van to see if it had been hit. Another individual called and complained Mr. Buchholz had cut him off while exiting the New Jersey Turnpike nearly causing an accident. A customer also complained that Mr. Buchholz had inappropriately complained about Victor Printing when Mr. Buchholz told the customer the boxes were too heavy and Victor Printing never sent anyone to help him. On October 15, 2009, the day before Mr. Buchholz’ termination, Mr. Buchholz hit a parked truck belonging to a large client of Victor Printing, Edmunds Direct Mail. The truck and the Victor Printing van were damaged and Mr. Buchholz failed to report the incident to Victor Printing or to Edmunds Direct Mail.

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