Age Discrimination Laws
Most states and the federal government have laws that prohibit private persons, organizations, and governments from discriminating against people because of age. In employment situations, individuals are protected from age discrimination by employers on the basis of age under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Generally, workers over the age of 40 are protected. Age discrimination may have occurred if your employer has treated you differently than other employees who do the same work as you because of your age.
Intent Must Be Proved For An Age Discrimination Claim
To prove age discrimination, an employee must show that the employer's intent was to discriminate on the basis of age. This intent can also be proved if the employer has treated other persons in the same age range unfairly.
Examples of When Age Discrimination Can Occur in the Workplace:
- Hiring, forced retirement, firing
- Job advertisements and recruitment
- Compensation, pay, regular and fringe benefits
- Waivers of the right to sue in exchange for severance pay
What Else is Prohibited by Age Discrimination Laws?
- Age preference or age limitations in job notices or advertisements. This is permitted only when the employer has proven that age is a "bona fide occupational qualification."
- Discrimination by apprenticeship programs.
- Denial of equal benefits to older employees. This may be permitted when the employer proves that the cost of lesser benefits to the older employees equals regular benefits to younger employees.
- Retaliation after filing a claim, participating in an investigation, or opposing the employer's discriminatory practices.
- Harassment due to age.
Federal Age Discrimination Laws and Agencies - EEOC
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the federal anti-discrimination laws. They investigate claims of age discrimination in employment. Generally, in order to file a lawsuit in federal court, an employee must first file a claim with the EEOC. The deadline for filing a claim with the EEOC is 180 days after the age discriminatory act. Because the EEOC investigators are often overworked and have countless other cases, people often get a "right to sue" letter from the EEOC, hire a private lawyer, and pursue their age discrimination claim in Court. Employees that have signed a waiver of age discrimination rights may give up their right to sue an employer.
State Age Discrimination Laws and Agencies
Most states also have their own laws regulating age discrimination in employment, and agencies to enforce these laws. The names of these state agencies vary by state, as do the deadlines for filing a claim.
Do I Need an Attorney Experienced with Age Discrimination Cases?
Pursing an age discrimination claim against an employer is complicated because procedural laws vary depending on where and when you file your claim. A lawyer will help you with the filing deadlines specific to your claim. Also, because the EEOC investigators will not get to your claim immediately, a lawyer can help you investigate and pursue any additional remedies. It is also a good idea to see a lawyer before signing a waiver or other severance package. If you are an employer being sued for employment discrimination, you should speak to a lawyer immediately.
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Last Modified: 02-08-2011 07:37 AM PST