Subjective Employee Rating System, Enough to find Age Discrimination in Wrongful Termination Case
Age discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of his or her age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) only forbids age discrimination against people who are 40 years of age or older. The ADEA does not protect workers under the age of 40, although some states do have laws that protect younger workers from age discrimination. It is not illegal for an employer or other covered entity to favor an older worker over a younger one, even if both workers are age 40 or older. Discrimination can occur when the victim and the person who inflicted the discrimination are both over 40.
A jury recently handed down a $370,000 award to a former executive of AT&T who was wrongfully terminated based on his age. John Gerundo worked at AT&T for 43 years before he was fired at age 65. Gerundo alleged that, without any real reason for his termination, the company simply told him that his position was being “surplused.” However, soon after the termination, he learned an employee 29 years younger was replacing him. It was revealed at trial that AT&T employed an entirely subjective rating system for employees, and AT&T could not explain why Gerundo had a lower rating than the employee replacing him.
Managers would use the rating system to get the results they wanted and had complete discretion in how they would rate their employees. The jury believed the evidence in the record was enough to meet the high burden of proof a plaintiff must show in order to succeed on an age discrimination case.