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Anything but old: the language used in age discrimination cases

by on September 17, 2013

Like the author of this article on the Mondaq website we are interested in the language used to describe people’s ages. It’s particularly interesting when it forms part of the evidence in a claim for age discrimination.

The legal advice (US based) is not to call an employee ‘old’ or ‘ancient,’ and to avoid code words, e.g. ‘old school’, ‘set in his ways,’ ‘not a proper fit for the “new environment,’ ‘lacking in energy,’ ‘not being up to date,’ ‘sounds old on the telephone,’ “is like a bag of bones’ or ‘a little long in the tooth’. All fairly obvious.

The specific case that the article examines, however, is a bit trickier. The claimant reached the age at which he was eligible to retire in the US (55) but never had any intention of retiring. He applied for a promotion and was turned down, the manager later citing that the claimant was ‘ready to retire’ and she wanted a candidate who would fill the position ‘on a consistent basis for years to come’.

What did she mean by this? Eligible to retire or too old? It seems that the claim will go forward to a later hearing, an application to dismiss it having failed. It’ll be interesting to see the final outcome.

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