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EEOC getting tougher on age discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settled an employment case with the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain for $12 million. The restaurant will also be required to make changes to its recruitment and hiring practices with regard to older applicants. The EEOC has been newly aggressive in asserting claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

According to the acting chair of the EEOC, age discrimination is pervasive in American workplaces and a priority for the EEOC to deal with. The results of a survey by the American Association of Retired Persons indicate that 60 percent of workers at least 45 years of age claim to have witnessed or been victims of age discrimination in the workplace.

The courts have made ADEA cases more difficult to prove than other discrimination cases, often deferring to employer's decisions regarding reasonable factors other than age. In a 2009 Supreme Court case, the Court ruled that the plaintiffs were required to prove that age was the primary factor behind bias treatment at work. The ruling was based on technical differences between Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the ADEA, according to the EEOC chair.

The EEOC chair encouraged people to take action if they feel they've been discriminated against at work due to their age. She said to file a complaint with the state or the EEOC. People who have questions about the ADEA or workplace discrimination generally may want to speak with a lawyer with experience in employment law, who may be able to help by examining the facts of the situation and identifying parties who have liability. The lawyer might negotiate with the employer to arrive at a satisfactory outcome or draft and file the documents necessary to state a claim for discrimination. A lawyer may also help by gathering evidence or conducting depositions in preparation for trial.

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