Age Discrimination and Retaliation Verdict of $4.25M against Abbott Labs

Our attorneys report that last week a federal jury found that Abbott Labs, one of the largest health care companies in the world, violated its employee’s rights based on age discrimination and retaliation.  In turn, the jury awarded the victim $4.25 million after age discrimination was proven by a preponderance of the evidence – which means that enough proof was presented to show that it was more likely than not that age discrimination took place.  The jury also found that the company retaliated against her after she filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).

The elements that the jury based their decision on included that the victim received good annual evaluations and even a recent promotion before she was mistreated after an event, and that the Plaintiff experienced a hostile work environment immediately thereafter.  She also started seeing a psychiatrist due to her mistreatment and filed a charge against the employer.  Once the employer found out about her filed charge, she began experiencing retaliation in the form of hostile work environment, reduced salary, downgraded position, and halved annual bonus.  In violation of Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), Abbott Labs withheld information from her about higher-level job openings and even promoted younger employees.  See link for more blog examples of age discrimination cases.

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) prohibits employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on age against employees or contractors aged 40 or older. If proven in court, a plaintiff may recover unlimited monetary damages, including back pay, emotional distress, punitive damages, and any other out-of-pocket loss. Complaints must first be filed with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) within one year from the date of the alleged unlawful act. They may then be filed in court. FEHA’s federal counterpart is the ADEA which forbids age discrimination against individuals who are 40 or older.

In addition, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and California’s FEHA prohibit employers from discriminating against employees that belong to a “protected class.” Specifically, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate, allow harassment of, or retaliate against certain individuals in their compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of their age.  Although Title VII and FEHA align on most types of discrimination, they are different in their applicability.  One item in which the two laws are different is that Title VII applies to employers with at least 15 individuals in a year, while FEHA applies to California employers with only 5 employees in a year.  Moreover, in the last year the California legislature passed additional laws expanding this reach to enable most lawsuits to be filed against smaller employers.

If you believe that you, or another employee, suffered an employment law matter related to age discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace, prompt action to preserve your rights is vital since the statute of limitation is a short one year. Contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Stephen Danz & Associates for a free no obligation consultation to discuss your circumstances and legal options.