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29 workers sue for employment discrimination due to age

The statutes against age discrimination protect employees who are age 40 and older from discrimination in hiring, firing, promotions, wages, benefits or layoffs solely because of their ages. The main federal statute, which applies in California and all other states, is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. All states also have their own legislation against employment discrimination that complement the federal counterparts.

Many cases are filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by employees seeking redress for discrimination at work due to age. There are also cases, in the nature of class actions, that are filed on behalf of numerous employees seeking the same, or generally the same, relief. Twenty-nine former employees of General Mills recently filed a case in federal court based on alleged age discrimination.

The complaint alleges that the company discriminated when it terminated numerous employees in 2014 and 2015 as part of what was called "Project Catalyst." That was a restructuring that terminated those over 40 at a rate three times higher than those under 40, according to the complaint. The terminations were ostensibly based on the elimination of certain positions in a reorganization by the company.

However, in reality, many positions were not eliminated but merely 'recycled' into new departments and given to employees under the age of 40. After termination, many older employees also found their jobs being reassigned to younger workers. Such tactics are very common in age discrimination cases involving terminations made under the guise of restructuring and so-called downsizing.

Large employers know that they can save tens of millions of dollars by eliminating experienced older workers and hiring younger workers to fill their places. The younger workers get paid significantly less, perform much or all of the same work, and get very slim benefits in comparison to the older workers. The company thus reaps a substantial financial benefit by engaging in a widespread or piecemeal program of age discrimination, despite losing the benefit of the accumulated wisdom of the older workers. Employment discrimination of this kind is prohibited in California and all other states.

Source: kare11.com, "Former General Mills employees file age discrimination suit", Allen Costantini, April 13, 2016

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