Proving Age Discrimination

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Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), it is illegal to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term of employment, including but not limited to:

The ADEA protects employees and job applicants who are 40 years of age or older, and it applies to companies with 20 or more employees.  It is also illegal to retaliate against an individual for filing or supporting an age discrimination charge. 

Are Age Discrimination Cases Hard to Prove?

Yes.  An individual must prove that he or she was treated differently from others in similar circumstances, and that age was the motivating factor. Direct proof of the employer's discriminatory intent (i.e. "you are too old for this job") is rarely available, and the victim must often rely on statistical or circumstantial evidence to prove a claim of age discrimination.   

How Can I Prove that I Have Been Discriminated Against?

A victim of age discrimination can try to prove his claim by using statistical or circumstantial evidence.  For example, perhaps there are no employees over the age of 50 in a company of several thousand employees.  Or, perhaps all the 55+ employees have been offered early retirement packages to pressure them to quit.  In each of these cases, the victim must show that other older individuals similarly situated in terms of skills or areas of employment are being discriminated against based solely on age. 

If an Older Employee Is Fired and Replaced by a Younger Person, Is that Age Discrimination?

Not necessarily.  In order to win on a claim of age discrimination, the victim must show that the firing was based solely on the victim's age.  Intent can be difficult to prove, such as when the employer can show that the younger employee is equally qualified and willing to work for less pay. The same is true if younger employees are being paid more than older employees.  If the variation in wages is slight, a case of age discrimination will be difficult to prove. 

What Should I Do if I Believe I Have Been Discriminated Against?

If you believe that you are a victim of age discrimination you should file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  If the EEOC does not resolve your complaint, you should consider contacting an experienced employment lawyer.  An employment lawyer can help you sue your former employer for discrimination.

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Last Modified: 02-21-2014 04:35 PM PST

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