In Texas and across the United States, workers who are 40 or older have long been protected from discrimination based on their age. But a recent court decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has raised concerns. The decision seeks to draw a distinction between older employees and older job applicants, with a holding that the law only protects workers from discrimination in their current position.
The 7th Circuit case centers around a 58-year-old man who submitted an application for a legal job with a major medical device manufacturer. The man was not granted an interview but later learned the position went to a 29-year-old who was less qualified. This spurred the man to file a lawsuit alleging age discrimination against the medical device company. The lawsuit alleged a disparate impact claim under the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA). After the case went to trial, his appeal eventually made its way to the 7th Circuit. When rendering their decision, the court pointed to the 'plain language" of the ADEA statute in drawing a distinction between employees and applicants.
According to some observers, this decision goes against previously established law as well as the best practices most companies operate with. While the decision has major implications, it is worth noting that it only applies to the states that fall within the 7th Circuit. For the case to carry weight nationwide, the United States Supreme Court would have to take up the issue and set a precedent.
Ultimately, the ADEA is intended to protect older employees from being discriminated against compared to their younger counterparts. A person who faces such discrimination may want to meet with an employment law attorney to see what recourse might be available.