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Clayton Halunen, Halunen Law
Clayton Halunen, Halunen Law

The POWER 30: Clayton Halunen

Age discrimination, sometimes under the guise of COVID-19, is a trend, according to employment lawyer Clayton Halunen. He sees employers replacing boomer-aged employees with younger people.

“It’s just a cost of doing business,” Halunen said. Businesses will say they are eliminating positions, but someone is still doing the work, he noted.

On his website, Halunen says, “We take the role of David against Goliath. I cherish that role.”

And Halunen would like a little help from Congress. He writes on his website that in 2009, “the United States Supreme Court decided in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, that in order for an employee to prove that an employer violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, an employee needed to show that he or she was terminated because of age.”

“Before Gross, age discrimination was treated just like discrimination based on other employee protected classes, such as race, color, sex, national origin, religion or disability, which require an employee to prove that discrimination only played a role in the employer’s decision. The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act would reverse the Gross decision and return older workers to the same playing field as other protected classes.”

The bill was passed in the House but didn’t make it out of committee in the Senate. However, it has been reintroduced and is pending.

Halunen is also working on a class action against the NCAA and individual schools regarding compensation for student athletes. Last year, in NCAA v. Alston, the Supreme Court upheld the 9th Circuit’s holding that restrictions on non-cash compensation for academic purposes, such as computers, violated antitrust law. Additionally, the general counsel for the NLRB has said that college athletes should be treated as employees.

Halunen is also pursuing claims under the False Claims Act for fraud in connection with the Paycheck Protection Program which administered loans to continue paychecks in some businesses.

Another fraud claim stemming from the virus protections is pending in federal court in Baltimore. In that case, it is alleged that drug company Hoffmann-La Roche bilked U.S. federal and state governments out of $1.5 billion by selling Tamiflu to them. The company claimed that Tamiflu was effective in containing potential pandemics and published misleading articles to support its claims. The FCA provides for treble damages, so the case is really over $4.5 million, Halunen said.

But one thing he’s not doing is representing employees who don’t want to be vaccinated. There may be good cases based on COVID-19 conditions, but those are not, he said.


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