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In 1967, Congress approved the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. It was intended to prevent age-related discrimination in the workplace. Workers’ positions were to be based on merit and ability rather than age. This is an especially important protection for older workers in Tennessee and across the country, but courts have made it extremely difficult to apply the ADEA’s protections. The EEOC has prioritized the enforcement of the act as the employment landscape changes in the post-recession era.

An interview with the EEOC’s acting chair, Victoria A. Lipnic, highlighted the reasons the agency is targeting age discrimination so aggressively. Among her most important reasons was the conclusion that over the past 50 years, there has been very little progress in reversing ageist stereotypes in the workplace. Age is something that will affect everyone eventually, so it may be one of the most universal areas of discrimination against which to take action. Older workers are more likely to be seeking work in the modern economy, so the problems of age discrimination are likely to only intensify.

Lipnic also emphasized the difficulties that people face in the courts. Precedents have created an extremely high bar for proving age discrimination. They require the plaintiff to prove that age discrimination was the primary reason for the discriminatory act, which is difficult. The EEOC did win a legal victory over Texas Roadhouse in 2017, requiring them to pay $12 million in damages to affected workers.

An age discrimination case can be difficult to prove in court, even with the protections of ADEA in place. It is important for anyone considering such a lawsuit to gain professional legal representation. A workplace discrimination attorney may be able to help a person organize the facts of his or her case and explain how the law affects him or her. A lawyer may also be able to argue an individual’s case in court and help him or her gain additional support from organizations like the EEOC.