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According to the Equal Employment Commission, the number of discrimination complaints due to age were up thirty percent in 2008 alone. That’s shocking, but not completely surprising to many, says attorney and founder A. Harrison Barnes. The recession and dwindling job market in previous years has potentially played a role in this big increase. In 2007, the complaints increased by fifteen percent. So why the one hundred percent increase? Barnes says it could have a lot to do with the changing career landscape between those two crucial years. “2007 was tough, but a lot of people were still feeling confident; it wasn’t until 2008 that the shift really began”, says the founder.

Barnes continues, “With nearly two million job cuts in the final four months of 2008, it was easily the worst year for job losses since World War II”. The Bureau of Labor Stats reveals numbers that support that. Many workers over the age of forty five have the lion’s share of the long term unemployment numbers, it reveals. Those in this age bracket were more likely to be unemployed for six months or longer. And too, many employers, especially younger companies, simply aren’t aware of what constitutes age discrimination. With an increase in lawsuits, that might soon change, however. More employment lawyers are taking notice and stepping up to the plate to defend those who fell victim to this kind of discrimination.

Not only that, but those employment attorneys, while also aggressive in their approaches to protect their clients, are beginning to ramp up their efforts. With such obvious trends, it’s difficult for anyone to dispute the patterns and it’s those patterns that much change. By 2016, AARP reports more than one third of the population in the U.S. will be over the age of 55. That’s a large number of working Americans.

So what exactly constitutes age discrimination? A. Harrison Barnes says when an employer considers and uses one’s age as a factor in hiring or promoting or when offering benefits, it can be construed as age discrimination. This also means age can’t be a consideration during the interview phase of hiring new personnel, either. Further, one’s employment contract or benefits cannot be different from what a younger employee might have access to, or vice versa, based solely on the age of the employee.

Employers must also display in prominent areas the applicable notices regarding equal employment opportunities as well as maintain detailed personnel files and be ready to present them during audits or examinations.

For now, many lawyers are seeing an increase in the number of clients who are seeking relief due to an employer’s lack of fair play. Unfortunately, it looks as though this trend might continue as more baby boomers continue to near retirement age.

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