Many longtime workers claim that they are being targeted for layoffs because of their age or health status, but federal law is often of little help.
We pursue age discrimination lawsuits in Michigan and Ohio and we use both federal and state laws as tools. The article suggests that there is something particularly difficult about proving age discrimination. In fact, all discrimination cases are subject to motions for summary judgment. These are motions brought by the employer before trial to ask the judge to dismiss the case. Nationally, employers win these motions well over half the time. These motions are based on the idea that “no genuine issues of material fact” exist upon which a jury could find liability. But the judge decides such motions without ever hearing testimony. Snippets of deposition testimony are strung together to suggest that the plaintiff has no evidence.
We would never allow someone to be found guilty of a crime without live testimony being heard in the courtroom, but that is the norm in employment discrimination lawsuits.
Less verbal or clever plaintiffs are particularly vulnerable, so are people struggling with pain or illness. A jury seeing them live would tell that the lawyer was twisting their words.
The constitution promises jury trials in civil cases, but that promise is essentially meaningless for most fired employees. It is time for Congress to make a change.
Read more in the New York Times article, “Shown the Door, Older Workers Find Bias Hard to Prove”, August 7, 2017