How can you define discrimination?

At the top of your head, how can you define discrimination? What criteria are used to identify and mitigate discrimination? How does the law address discrimination? I am confident by the end of this speech we will have covered these questions after discussing Schwager v. Sun Oil Company of Pennsylvania case. More precisely, the case concerns age discrimination in employment, which is our main area of concern.

In the context of employment, discrimination can be explained as giving preferential treatment to members of a particular group when compared to members of other groups. Discrimination entailsunequal treatment (intentional) and adverse impact discrimination (unintentional). The latter defines a scenario where everyone undergoes similar procedures even though they result in a significant difference in employment outcomes regarding members of a particular group (Cascio & Aguinis, 2005). For instance, a specific height requirement is required for police cadets which, notwithstanding seeming neutral,has adverse impacts on women and Asians. According to the law, before using such qualification, the employer will need to ascertain that the height requirement is imperative for one to perform the job (Selmi, 2000). The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 requires that employers provide equal employment opportunities by factoring age. More precisely, following the 1986 amendment, ADEA prescribes discrimination by age for employees aged 40 and above unless the employer can prove that the age requirement is a bona fide occupational qualification for the job (Cascio & Aguinis, 2005; Selmi, 2000).

Paul Schwager’s employment with Sun Oil Company was terminated in 1972, after 18 years. Early that year, the top management of Sun Oil decided to alter some of its operational and personnel structure to maintain a competitive edge in the market (Landis, 1981). One of the significant changes entailed laying off some of the employees in specific areas of the company. This decision led to the termination of Schwager’s employment. As a consequence, Schwager filed a lawsuit against Sun Oil because he believed he was unlawfully fired due to his age, and this was a violation of the ADEA.

In court, the plaintiff contended saying that the company primarily aimed at firing its senior staff. To support his claims, the claimant provided statistical evidence which showed that most of the terminated employees (29 out of 49) were between 40 and 65 years old (Landis, 1981). To its defense, Sun Oil stated that Schwager was fired due to performance related issues as opposed to age. The company further mentioned that the claimant was the weakest performer.

After carefully reviewing all the facts, the court found that the plaintiff’s termination was due to his performance and not age. Schwager lost his job as a salesman because he ranked the last in the general performance at the time of the termination. On appeal, the plaintiff stated that the court erred in finding that the company did not violate the ADEA. Schwager presented a prima facie case which established that:

  1. a) He was within the protected age group
  2. b) He was performing well
  • c) His termination did not consider his excellent work.
  1. d) 65% of the recruits were less than 45 years of age.

To its defense, Sun Oil stated that it acted following the provision which indicates that it is not unlawful for employers to take part in prohibited actions if reasonable factors other than age is used as the basis for differentiation (Landis, 1981). After providing the necessary proof that the claimant’s termination was based on performance, the court found Schwager’s claims to be without merit.

In conclusion, based on the above discussion, we have defined discrimination, identified the criteria is used to identify and mitigate discrimination and mentioned how the law addresses discrimination.


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