Employers: Beware of Age Discrimination

© 2008 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Fall 2008
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Page 64

Hot Legal News for Dealers and Manufacturers
By Naomi Angel, DASMA Legal Counsel

Employers: Beware of Age Discrimination

Employers have the burden of justifying why they terminated older workers who are covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). This new ruling was one of the U.S. Supreme Court’s final decisions of its 2007-2008 term.

The appeal involved a New York employer who laid off 31 workers, 30 of whom were covered by ADEA. The Court ruled the burden is on the employer to establish a factor other than employees’ age as the basis for terminating the employees, rather than requiring the employees to individually come up with reasons why they were wrongfully terminated.

TIP: The lopsided terminations in New York almost preordained the Court’s ruling. It opens up the prospect that employers must justify the termination of almost any employee aged 40 and older until this is further sorted out in the lower court.

Employers might avoid ADEA litigation by offering a reasonable severance package including release of all claims. It’s also wise to retain documented and justifiable reasons for dismissing any employee. Document retention policy guidelines recommend that employee files should be maintained for four years.

Before Bragging Greenness, Get Guidance

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is conducting a series of public workshops about its “Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims,” commonly known as the “Green Guides.”

As more companies trumpet their environmental citizenship, touting best practices and green products and services, the FTC is committed to more-stringent review of such claims. Other green guidelines exist, including those from the International Standards Organization, Canada, and other not-for-profit groups.

TIP: If you are thinking about touting your greenness, check out these guides. They will help you avoid confrontations with the FTC or bad press from environmental activists.

IRS Raises Mileage Deduction Rates … Again

The Internal Revenue Service has increased the mileage deduction for business use of autos from 50.5 cents to 58.5 cents per mile for the remainder of 2008. This is a small but helpful offset to rising gas prices.

The IRS also raised the mileage deduction for medical and moving purposes from 19 cents to 27 cents for the remainder of 2008. The charitable use deduction remains at 14 cents per mile. The new rates are effective July 1 through Dec. 31, 2008, unless changed again.

TIP: If you use your personal auto for business, medical, moving, or charitable purposes, keep track of your mileage for figuring tax deductions or reimbursements.

Anonymous Bloggers Beware: You May Be Identified

If you anonymously post libelous comments on the Internet, you might not remain anonymous for long. A trial judge in New York has imposed a standard for uncovering the identity of anonymous persons posting such comments.

Here’s what happened. Anonymous bloggers posted accusations that a former congressman and his wife were guilty of various frauds including paying bribes to local officials. The comments were posted on a Web site maintained by a local newspaper.

The couple sued the anonymous accusers, using the site to notify them of their right to intervene anonymously in the lawsuit. No one responded. The judge ruled that the couple could pierce the writers’ First Amendment free speech rights and require the site provider to identify the anonymous writers.

TIP: The Internet makes it easy to anonymously publish allegations to a wide audience. Whether published with good intentions or with malice, such communication leaves the target of the allegations with little recourse. This judge’s approach seems to balance the rights of accusers and the rights of the accused.

If you post harsh comments on the Internet, don’t assume that your identity is securely concealed. Your mother may have had the best policy: “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.”

These articles are provided solely for informational purposes and do not constitute legal advice. If you have specific questions or concerns about a legal issue, consult your company’s legal counsel for guidance.