According to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, discriminating against workers because of their age is illegal. Federal law only protects victims of workplace age discrimination if they are over the age of 40, and if the employer is a government entity or has 20 or more employees. However, there are exceptions. A MA injury attorney can help you recover damages if you were harmed due to any type of workplace discrimination. Determining whether age discrimination actually exists can be tricky. That’s why having a knowledgeable injury attorney is crucial to the outcome of your case.

Needless to say, older Americans are still quite capable of putting in years of dedicated, hard work. In fact, statistics show that older workers are generally more reliable than their younger counterparts. But this isn’t always reflected in employer decisions. Some companies may incorrectly assume that your advanced age means you are close to retirement and won’t be “in it for the long haul.” Simply claiming that you didn’t get a job due to your age, however, may be difficult to prove without supporting evidence.

Proving Age Discrimination

The signs below are good indicators that you may be a victim of workplace age discrimination. If any of these apply to you, a Boston injury attorney can help you determine if you have a legal claim against your employer or potential employer.

  • Inappropriate or biased remarks: These are the most obvious indicators, but also the rarest. If your boss calls you “grandpa” or asks you to project a younger image, these remarks provide direct evidence of discrimination. Document the comment and jot down the names of any witnesses, and the date, time, and place that the comment was made.
  • Different treatment: Are young employees treated differently than older employees under the same circumstances? If a company-wide lay off seemed to target mostly older employees, this could be evidence of age discrimination. Right down the names and ages of workers who were laid off as well as the names and ages of less-qualified workers who were not.
  • Biased discipline: If younger workers get away with coming in late, but you keep getting written up, document this disparity. Your employer may be building a case against you in order to fire you for cause (while protecting the company from a lawsuit).
  • Failure to receive a promotion for which you were the most qualified candidate: If a younger, less-qualified employee received a promotion that you applied for, your age may have played a role.
  • Playing favorites: If younger workers receive better assignments and equipment and you seem to always get the leftovers, favoritism may be a factor. Similarly, it may be a sign of age discrimination if supervisors only socialize with younger workers, or exclude older workers from important meetings and events.
  • New hires are all young: If you notice that your company only seems to hire younger employees these days, age discrimination is a very real possibility.
  • Harassment: If you feel that your boss is making you miserable just so that you will quit, document these actions, and write down witness information. Even if your boss is older than you, he or she may still prefer younger employees…and that’s still age discrimination.

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Sexual harassment in the workplace is any unwanted activity of a sexual nature that creates an unfriendly or hostile work environment. Sexual harassment can be physical, verbal, or more nuanced such as through email interactions. Sexual harassment can happen to women, men and transgendered workers.

Although most people think of sexual harassment in various forms of cliché – such as a cigar-smoking boss physically grabbing female employees in inappropriate ways – this is by no means the only way that sexual harassment can occur within the workplace. Sexual harassment includes any type of sexual advances, requests for sexual favors in exchange for rewards or threats of disciplinary action if sexual favors are not given.

Another stereotypical view of sexual harassment is that it only occurs in certain types of office environments, and that it was a much bigger problem back in the 70s, 80s and 90s when the increased presence of women in the workforce was still a new topic to those unwilling to adapt to changing times.

Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that sexual harassment has not vanished with the modernization of society, as a 2015 study showed that 33 percent of 2,235 part and fulltime women workers experienced harassment at work at some point in their lives.

Other recent studies show that sexual harassment is actually an even bigger problem in modern, booming industries, such as the technological hub of Silicon Valley.

A study of more than 200 women working in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco in 2016 showed that 90 percent had witnessed sexist behavior at offsite company events and industry conferences. Another 60 percent had reported being the target of unwanted sexual advances from a superior. An uneasy 33 percent said they felt afraid for their personal safety because of these incidents at work.

These cases of sexual harassment include physical groping and the requesting of a female sales associate to “sit on his lap” in order to complete a sale. One who filed a complaint after she was physically groped by her boss said that she was retaliated against and had to leave the company.

Even more alarming are the staggering statistics regarding gender discrimination by superiors and clients at these companies. About half of the survey respondents said they had been asked to perform “office housework” tasks, such as taking notes, ordering food, etc.) that male counterparts were not asked to do. Another 87 percent reported being on the receiving end of demeaning comments from male colleagues.

A shocking 75 percent of respondents say they were asked questions about marriage and family in their job interviews, which is a violation of anti-discrimination policy. Sometimes the discriminatory action is less overt, such as superiors taking the staff out to lunch at Hooters, or engaging in “team building activities” that include shaving the hair from their heads. Continue reading

Laws protecting employees from workplace discrimination are incredibly important to providing safe, friendly work environments for all Americans in the workforce. However, providing additional laws that prevent any employer from unfairly punishing them because they filed a complaint, assisted an investigation, or didn’t fall in line with a supervisor’s lie in order to protect them may be just as important.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, workplace retaliation “is the most frequently alleged basis of discrimination in the federal sector and is the most common discrimination finding in federal sector cases.” However workplace retaliation can happen anywhere, from a Burger King in Cambridge to a white collar investment firm in New York City.

If protection didn’t exist for those who call out obvious acts of discrimination, misconduct and other, more illicit activities, then those kinds of behavior would go on, unreported and indefinitely, because the individual or individuals committing the misconduct may be in a position of power over the individual or individuals who they are tormenting.

People will endure a lot of suffering if they have few options for employment and need to be paid each week in order to keep up with bills and other expenses. Unfortunately, many times people who have the most to lose if they are fired from their jobs are the ones who are more likely to be discriminated against in the workplace – such as disabled individuals and immigrants of minority races or religions.

The protections offered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ensure that, even if you are filing a complaint against a direct supervisor or somebody much higher up the workplace hierarchy, that you may not be punished, demoted, lose benefits, have hours cut, or be otherwise negatively impacted as a direct retaliation to your complaint.

These protections don’t just apply to complaints either. Protections against retaliation exist in the cases of:

  • Calling for an investigation, being a witness in a case or filing your own lawsuit
  • Communicating with a manager or supervisor about discrimination happening in your place of employment, including harassment
  • Answering questions during an investigation into alleged harassment
  • Refusal to follow orders that could be deemed as a discriminatory action
  • Resisting sexual harassment or advances, or preventing somebody else from being sexually harassed
  • Requesting a special accommodation to alleviate a disability or for a religious practice
  • Asking your managers or co-workers about salary information to assess if there is wage discrimination occurring.

It is important to note that employees are only fully protected from retaliation due to their participation in a complaint process – whether it is the actual filing of a complaint, participating in an investigation or being a witness in a hearing. Employers may still discipline or discharge an employee if they can provide a non-discriminatory, non-retaliatory reason for doing so.

If an employer does not find a legitimate reason to fire an employee, they are still not allowed to engage in any actions that would discourage that employee or any other employee from filing a complaint in the future.

Such behavior could include reprimanding or humiliating the employee in front of other coworkers, transferring the employee to a “less desirable” position, physically, verbally or mentally abuse the employee, threaten to report them to outside authorities (like immigration or the police), spread false rumors about them or make their work life more difficult (such as scheduling them during known family conflicts). Continue reading

A supervisory special agent working within the inspector general’s office of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, referred to colloquially as Amtrak, has been reinstated and awarded a hefty sum of over $892,000 by the railroad company after he was terminated for raising safety concerns about a contractor hired by Amtrak.

The contractor in question had been convicted in a New York court in 2010 for committing fraud in its examination and testing of concrete used in building projects in the area of New York City, and had been contracted to conduct similar tests on some Amtrak tunnel projects as well. The investigator, concerned about safety and security of the tunnel projects given this fact, raised safety concerns about the contractor.

Subsequently, in October of 2010, the investigator supported a fellow employee who had been reprimanded for raising his own series of concerns about the contractor. A month later, the investigator received a negative performance review – the first he had received in his career with Amtrak.

In March of 2011, the investigator learned that his position was being eliminated as part of an “overall reorganization” of the company. Despite applying for other positions within the company, he was given no new position and was notified in June of 2011 that his employment was officially terminated with Amtrak.

The investigator then filed a whistleblower complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), who opened an investigation into the issue. OSHA found that Amtrak had violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act, which protects employees who report potential safety concerns from being wrongfully discharged, demoted, suspended or otherwise reprimanded as a result of sharing their concerns.

“In this case, an employee was terminated for pursuing and reporting safety concerns. The employer’s retaliation is unacceptable and illegal,” said Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA’s acting New England regional administrator. “Federal law gives rail carrier employees the right to raise safety, health and security concerns with their supervisors without fear of retaliation. When retaliation occurs, it can have a chilling effect on employees and create a climate of silence where employees’ fear to speak up masks conditions that could impact their health and well-being, and that of their customers.”

OSHA has ordered Amtrak to do the following:

  • Reinstate the employee to a similar position as was held before the termination with the same rights, seniority and benefits as before.
  • Pay a total in $892,551 to the employee, comprised of $723,332 in back wages (plus $34,218 in interest), $100,000 in punitive damages, $35,000 in compensatory damages and attorney’s fees.
  • Remove all references to the employee’s dismissal from Amtrak’s records and make no adverse statements concerning his employment at Amtrak.
  • Post a notice to all railroad employees about their Federal Railroad Safety Act rights.

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If a long-term disability is preventing you from gainful employment, you may qualify for one of two government programs – Social Security Disability or supplemental security income (SSI). The programs have many similarities, but requirements to qualify for each program are quite different. Read on for more information about these federal disability programs and what benefits you may receive if you are eligible.

What Conditions are Covered?

Social Security Disability and SSI use the same listing manual of qualifying conditions to determine eligibility. If a medical complication is preventing you from working, the list below will help you determine if your condition qualifies you for benefits under either of these programs. According to the 2017 listing manual, covered conditions include:

  • Musculoskeletal conditions, including back and spine injuries
  • Cardiovascular problems, including heart disease
  • Speech or sensory conditions, such as hearing or vision loss
  • Respiratory problems, such as emphysema and COPD
  • Neurological conditions, including cerebral palsy and epilepsy
  • Mental disorders, including depression
  • Disorders of the immune system, such as HIV and lupus
  • Skin conditions, including dermatitis
  • Problems with the digestive tract, such as irritable bowel syndrome
  • Kidney problems
  • Cancer
  • Hematological conditions
  • Other disorders

If you are unable to work due to any of the above conditions, you will likely qualify for one of these programs. However, if you have a condition that is not listed above, you may still be eligible for benefits. If, for example, Social Security considers your condition to be a medical equivalent of one of its listed conditions, you can qualify by “equaling a disability listing.” And even if you don’t equal the listing manual’s criteria, you may still be approved if your condition limits your ability so severely that you are unable to work.

Income Limits

You may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if you have a disability that prevents you from working, and you earned a certain amount prior to becoming disabled. In 2017, the qualifying amount is  over $1,170 per month. If you are self employed, Social Security will use different criteria to gauge eligibility. A MA disability insurance lawyer can help you determine if you qualify.

SSI is available to individuals who have never been able to work, or have worked very little, due to their disability. Eligibility for this program is based on income – to qualify, your monthly income must not have exceed $735 (or $1,103 for couples). However, keep in mind that only some of your income will be considered when determining if you qualify.

What Benefits Are Available to Me if I Qualify?

Social Security Disability and SSI benefits both include monthly cash payments. Most individuals who qualify for Social Security Disability benefits receive between $700 and $1,700 monthly in cash payments. The amount for SSI is generally less. You may also receive backpay for both programs, based on the established date of onset of your condition. Although Social Security Disability does not provide immediate health insurance, after 24 months, you may be eligible for Medicare coverage. In certain cases, you may qualify for Medicare immediately. A Boston Social Security Disability attorney can help you determine if you qualify for health insurance coverage. SSI, on the other hand, usually includes immediate health insurance coverage under Medicaid. Both disability and SSI recipients are also usually eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as “food stamps.” Continue reading

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