Older person with coworkers

Are The White Sox Guilty Of Age Discrimination?

This spring, the Chicago White Sox were sued by a former employee who is accusing them of discrimination based on sexual orientation, disability, and age. He also claims he was defamed by the team and suffered emotional distress.

While all of the claims made in the lawsuit are troubling, Vaziri Law LLC is paying close attention to the age discrimination component of this case. Our team is committed to helping Chicago area residents who are facing age discrmination seek justice. 

The Dirt on the Sox

The Sox are being sued by Brian Ball, the team’s former head trainer. Ball claims he was illegally fired in October 2020 because of his sexual orientation, disability, and age:

…Ball was the victim of a carjacking on July 17, 2020. After meeting with police, he went to the ballpark to be checked by a team physician. The next day, the suit says, Hahn told Ball he was being put on medical leave and would need to see a psychologist as part of his conditions to return to work.

By Aug. 28, Ball says he was cleared by his personal psychologist to return to work. The suit claims the Sox denied that clearance and alleges Hahn made statements to other athletic training staff in September 2020 that Ball had a gambling and drug or alcohol addiction that was related to the carjacking. The suit says none of those accusations is true.

By late October, the suit says that Ball was told by Hahn that he was being terminated and that no explanation was given…

But Ball’s suit claims an ‘‘Individual A’’ — a ‘‘White Sox management-level representative’’ — contacted him Dec. 27, 2020, and claimed the termination was based on his sexual orientation.

The suit claims the Sox replaced Ball with “a less-qualified, non-disabled, non-homosexual male younger than 40 years of age.”

The Sox issued a statement denying the allegations made in the lawsuit. 

Is it Age Discrimination? 

There’s a lot to unpack in Ball’s lawsuit, but for the purposes of this blog post, we are focusing on the age discrimination claim. 

Ball, who is 50, says he was replaced by “a less-qualified… male younger than 40 years of age.”

If Ball can prove he was fired because the team wanted someone younger in the job, this claim may stand. Both Illinois law and federal law protect employees from age discrimination in the workplace. 

In Illinois, the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) protect employees from age discrimination in recruiting, hiring and firing, promotion decisions, and compensation and benefits.

The federal law prohibiting age discrimination is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The ADEA prohibits discriminating against anyone over the age of 40 with respect to compensation, terms, and conditions or privileges of employment based on his or her age. The Older Workers Benefits Protection Act (OWBPA) expanded the ADEA to protect older workers from being denied employment benefits because of their age.

Evidence of Age Discrimination

Whether Ball’s claim of age discrimination will succeed depends on the specific facts in the case. During the discovery phase, Ball’s attorney will look for evidence proving the discrimination. 

When involved in similar cases, the Vaziri Law LLC team has discovered employers who:

  • Denied training, education, or other benefits to older workers because they didn’t think they would get enough return on their investment. 
  • Said they wanted to hire someone who could “stay in the position long-term.” 
  • Targeted older employees when they needed to lay people off. 
  • Forced an older worker into retirement. 
  • Excluded older workers from meetings and company events because they didn’t think the employee would enjoy them. 
  • Repeatedly emphasized the fact that they want employees who are comfortable working in a “fast-paced environment” before taking a negative action against an older employee.
  • Refused to interview job applicants over a certain age.   

These are just a handful of examples. Age discrimination comes in many forms. Sometimes it is obvious, and sometimes employers try to disguise it as a legitimate business decision, but it is always unlawful. If you suspect you have been treated differently at work because of your age, you should consult with an attorney. 

Fueled by Passion. Built on Trust. 

Vaziri Law LLC provides employment law services in Chicago and its surrounding areas. If you believe you are the victim of age-based workplace discrimination, our experienced team is ready to listen to your story and help you figure out a path forward. We are available when you need us most, so contact us today to schedule a free consultation.