If you work for a company that employs at least two people, you are covered by state laws on discrimination. This number, as set by state law, is one of many under the supervision of the Department of Employment-Labor Standards. Keep in mind that to file any type of discrimination charge, with the department, you would be required to go through a few steps. In addition, prior to review by a compliance officer, an intake questionnaire would have to be completed. The state’s office of Fair Employment Practices oversees the fact finding/settlement conference as part of the process.
If your case is found not to contain evidence for reasonable cause, you have 20 days to ask for a hearing under state law, or 15 days to ask the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to review the case. The case may proceed to court under the right-to-sue regulations. In Wyoming, you have six months from the date of the incident to file. It is interesting to note that in 2005 one of the priorities for some groups representing older Americans was to increase the time limit from 90 days to 180 or even 365 days. While the groups agreed that Wyoming’s age discrimination laws were already tough, it was stated that the filing time needed to be increased to resemble that in 48 other states.
In 1987, a Colorado case involving retirement age questions for health department employees, which cited a Wyoming case involving county and district health departments and the EEOC. Questions brought up in the Colorado case, which prompted the citing of the Wyoming case, were whether state or federal laws specify or suggest a retirement age for county or district health department employees, whether the board of a county or district health department may establish, and rules for enforcing an age retirement policy.
In this discussion, it was noted that some state laws suggest a retirement age of 70, but federal law might also take precedence. The suggestion was that employers and workers should consider whether the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) applied.
If you’re looking for help with an employment discrimination issue in North Carolina, you’ll probably find it with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency. The reason is that the North Carolina Human Relations Commission points out that the state does not have provision for filing lawsuits in its own “fair employment” law. Generally, you are allowed to file a “public policy” claim in court, although not with the state agency. This claim, based on state law, can be applied to businesses that have fewer than 20 employees.
If you contact the commission, you will be referred to the EEOC, other appropriate agencies or to a private attorney. As originally established, the Human Relations Commission in North Carolina exists to “promote equality” and “promote understanding” among citizens as well as to encourage equal employment opportunities for citizens.
The North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services refer inquiries to the federal level too. Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) you are covered if you work for an employer who has 20 or more workers and if you are 40 or over. Those who ask are told to be sure to file a complaint with the EEOC within 180 days of the alleged incident.
North Carolina maintains an Office of Administrative Hearings, an office established by state law that may assist with cases from the EEOC. The chief judge of this agency is authorized to contract with the EEOC to serve as a “deferral agency” and to maintain a Civil Rights Division. Another way to seek employment help if you are an older worker is to contact the Senior Community Service Employment Program. This state program tries to place those 55 and older in part-time community service as a way to get them into the workforce.
The state’s Employment Security Commission focuses on such areas as finding job openings, estimating benefits, unemployment insurance, veterans’ employment, and “re-employment services and benefits.” This last category oversees such programs as the Workforce Investment Act, a federally funded program that provides services such as employment and training activities for adults and dislocated workers. The Employment Security Commission also administers Trade Adjustment Assistance, for those who may have been displaced or disadvantaged by foreign imports or free trade agreements.
One of the key cases that many employers, workers and attorneys seem to be quite interested in is Smith v. City of Jackson, Mississippi. What is it about this case that brings it into discussions in several states across the country? I discovered that a group of 30 police officers and dispatchers, all 40 years old or more, challenged a pay system that gave higher percentage salary increases to officers and dispatchers with fewer years on the job. In addition, almost all those who got higher increases were under 40.
At the heart of this Mississippi case is the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), passed in 1967 to protect workers 40 and over from just such discrimination. Cases such as Smith v. City of Jackson have helped to amend and adjust the 40-year-old law. In March 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that workers over 40 could sue using the ADEA when an employer took action that had “disparate impact” on their age group. It is significant that, under the ruling, employees are not required to show that the employer intended to discriminate against older workers.
Okay, so what does disparate impact mean? According to the Supreme Court ruling, it means that the employer’s wage practices can seem “age-neutral” but still have a stronger impact on older workers. In addition to the protections and guidelines offered by federal laws such as ADEA and the Civil Rights Act, workers and employers in Mississippi have the state’s Department of Employment Security/Equal Opportunity Division as a resource.
If you are looking for help as a job seeker, the department offers veterans services, education and training assistance, and much more. If you are an employer wishing to locate in Mississippi, the department has business registration help, employee job training, job placement services, and other items on its menu. Mississippi emphasizes that equal employment opportunity is the law, and to make this work the state has a program called Methods of Administration. This special program is designed to ensure the department’s compliance with U.S. Department of Labor regulations and the federal laws pertaining to employers and workers.
The place to go for general information on employment, workforce development, labor market information, and related topics is the Agency for Workforce Innovation. This particular agency is part of the Florida Department of Labor. The State of Florida relies on federal regulations for labor issues, using the same references to the federal Workforce Investment Act that many other states do. However, I found that Florida has in place a WIA of its own – the Workforce Innovation Act of 2000.
This state-level law consolidated some agencies and was designed to streamline the process for unemployment compensation, appeals, funding, and other areas. The new law repeals the 1996 Florida regulations. Florida has statutes that specifically address age discrimination and in fact, I found a section of the law that not only prohibits such discrimination, but also aims to remedy situations when older workers find themselves disadvantaged because “rising productivity and affluence” has changed the workplace. Florida law even states that setting arbitrary age limits has “become a common practice.”
The intent of Florida law in this area is to remedy some of these problems for older workers that may have suffered when compared to younger workers in the same industry. The bottom line is that the intent of the state’s law is to promote employment of older workers based on ability. Florida law also prohibits, among other things, “fail or refuse to hire” someone because of age, limit or segregate individuals based on age, and reduce wages based on age without employee’s consent to reduced work.
Many of the guidelines are the same as, or very similar to, those in other states. Additionally, guidelines are close in language to federal law. However, Florida’s laws also specifically list employees of the state who are in the Career Service System. A recent case involving age discrimination issues was the suit filed, in federal court against Florida Gulf Coast University. With this, a 62-year-old professor claimed he was demoted because he complained about being a victim of age discrimination.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took up this suit followed by a spokesperson for the university telling Florida media that it was illegal to collect age information when you hire someone and she did not know the average age of the faculty at the university.
A preliminary search for information on federal age discrimination law will lead you to the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Upon research, I found this law prohibits discrimination against persons 40 years of age and older. In addition, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act amends some sections of ADEA. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 made some amendments to ADEA as well.
The language of the original law, now almost 40 years old itself, is repeated in the laws of many states. Individual states have included references to older workers being disadvantaged as they tried to keep their jobs or retrain for jobs. The U.S. Secretary of Labor was directed to study and report on the needs and abilities of older workers, which was a given to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as part of the Department of Labor. The recommendations from this study were to be made to Congress six months after the law’s passage.
The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits age discrimination in programs that receive federal financial assistance. However, it does permit use of certain age distinctions the meet the Act’s requirements. In addition, the Age Discrimination Act is enforced by the Civil Rights Center of the Department of Labor. I also learned that you are covered by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (1990) that amended the ADEA specifically to keep employers from denying benefits to older employees. Various workplace laws cover older workers, but these federal regulations are the foundation for issues of age in the workplace.
One of the differences you’ll find between federal and state laws on age discrimination is the number of employees a business must have to be covered by the law. For example, the federal ADEA law is based on those companies that employ 20 or more people whereas the U.S. law applies to state and local government, labor unions, and the federal government, but not specifically to elected officials or independent contractors. Generally, a U.S. Supreme Court case (2000) removed state employees from ADEA protection although these employees may still be protected by the state-level law.