By Amy Feldman

By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Businesses are often taken by surprise when they’re sued for age discrimination even though they never called anyone too old.

The owner of 49 Dairy Queens in Texas was sued for age discrimination after she wrote an email about a 63-year-old employee whom she called “a lazy cow hand who has been in the saddle too long.” Apparently people in Texas actually say things like that with a straight face. That email cost the owner almost a million dollars, even though she never said the words “too old.”

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the ADEA) protects employees over the age of 40 from discrimination on the basis of their age. But employers can be found to have discriminated even if they never called someone “too old.” Other phrases like, “too senior” or “overqualified” have been seen as discriminatory by juries, as have references an employer makes to wanting to get in “new blood” or “young Turks.”

If employees feel they’ve been a victim of age discrimination, words that make them uncomfortable – even if not overtly discriminatory – can be used as evidence so y’all need to be careful when you’re judging an employee who’s gotten a little long in the tooth.

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