An experienced 71-year-old with more than 30 years of pipefitter and welder experience at Graphic Packaging, applied for a new job opportunity post-retirement. While he was sure it was because of age discrimination, his company stated otherwise. It was because of poor references by two former co-workers that prevented him from landing an interview, according to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
WestRock, a packaging company, was seeking new hires that were well-versed in the pipefitting business, with ample experience. To the plaintiff it seemed like a great opportunity he was prepared for. The role called for someone that could weld, read blueprints, and do the job with ease. Unlike other applications it did not ask the plaintiff for his date of birth.
The team lead directing the hiring process with HR knew the plaintiff. They had prior experience working together at Graphic Packaging, but the WestRock employee felt he wouldn’t be the best candidate. More specifically, the lead recounted a time where the plaintiff was not making the best use of his time on the job. To verify what he believed to be true the supervisor connected with another former co-worker. With more than two negative reviews, the HR professional made an executive decision to move forward with other applicants.
The plaintiff decided to take legal action against WestRock when he discovered they hired a younger employee that may have had less work experience. He and his lawyer moved forward with an age discrimination case declaring the company was in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). In his complaint he alleged he was qualified and fit for the role and ageist behavior is why he wasn’t selected for the opportunity.
Additionally, he admitted that he had difficulty reading building blueprints, didn’t know how to select specific pipes for the job, and didn’t like welding. With poor legal defense the plaintiff was unable to build a strong foundation for his case. The applicant failed to prove WestRock was acting with ill-intentions. This could have been avoided if an attorney for job application ageism assessed his case thoroughly before moving forward.
Both elderly and younger applicants alike can be subjected to ageism, before they get accepted into the workplace. The application process has always been slightly biased, depending on the company and how they find talent. Ageism is stereotyping or discriminating against another because of their age. It is unlawful for employers to make decisions such as hiring, firing, or promoting, based on how long they were at the company and how old an employee may be.
Federal Laws That Cover Older Workers
In the U.S., employees aged 40 years and up are protected through The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (OWBPA). ADEA prevents employers from discriminating against an employee based on their age. OWBPA is an amendment of ADEA, and additionally prohibits employers from denying benefits to older employees.
If you or a loved one lost a job opportunity based on your age, you can take legal action with an employment attorney in Los Angeles. While it is unfortunate that this plaintiff did not win this case based on invalid evidence, at Mann & Elias, we can assure you that we will thoroughly evaluate your claim. A settlement can and will be reached if you choose to retain us.