A lawsuit by three older Circuit City employees, alleging the retailer violated California age-discrimination laws by laying them off because they were earning too much, is part of a surge in age-bias complaints from Baby Boomers.
The lawsuit also reflects employers’ contrasting attitudes toward older workers, experts say. Diana Scott, a Santa Monica lawyer who represents employers, said she has seen a 50 percent increase in age-bias cases during the past three years.
Plaintiffs Daniel Weidler, 57, Michael Yezback, 59, and Eloise Garcia, 66, all from Circuit City’s Oxnard store, were laid off among 3,400 workers nationally. Those employees were earning “well above the market-based salary range for their role,” according to a company statement, and will be replaced with lower-paid new hires. Valued for their skills and abilities to connect with customers, these more-experienced employees tend to earn more than younger, less-seasoned workers.
Some employers are going out of their way to retain these veteran workers. “These characteristics translate quite directly into important business outcomes,” said Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, director of the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College. And “there’s a little bit of a bellwether of change in that employers are taking a second look at older workers.”
Other employers, such as Circuit City, are letting them go to cut costs — prompting lawsuits from employees contending they are being picked on because of their age. Los Angeles lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents the workers and is seeking class-action status for the case, said Circuit City’s decision had an “adverse impact on older employees.” That, she said, opens the way to the age-bias claim under California law. Allred said she doesn’t know how many of the 621 laidoff California workers are 40 or older.