Age discrimination at work is not uncommon. However, it is illegal under both individual state and federal laws. If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of your age at work, and you can obtain proof of the discrimination, there are legal avenues available for you to address the damages that you have endured. Age discrimination is illegal under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (1967) (ADEA), although this only applies to workers who are aged 40 and over, as well as to private employers who have more than 20 employees and federal workers. All states with a single exception (North Dakota) have age discrimination laws that are often more stringent than the ADEA. If your case of age discrimination cannot be handled under the ADA, you should see an attorney about making a claim through the relevant state department.
The federal agency that enforces the ADEA, as well as any other case of discrimination, is the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). If you have made a serious but unsatisfactory attempt at resolving your age discrimination complaint with your own employer, then the next step would be to file a claim with the EEOC. This is called a Charge of Discrimination. This is a serious step so you need to have proof that you have been discriminated against because of your age and that the EEOC is the right body to approach, i.e. you are over 40 and in a workplace of more than 20 employees, otherwise you would need to contact your state Department of Labor.
There is a statute of limitations for discrimination claims with the EEOC. You need to file your claim with them within 180 days of the incidence of discrimination. If the case is unresolved, then the EEOC will give you permission to file a lawsuit against your employer. This should be done within 60 days of the authority to file the claim. In fact, it is always best to not leave a response until it is too late, so the 180 day time limit is reasonably generous.
The EEOC, once your initial claim with them has been received will attempt to remedy the situation with the main goal of restoring or redressing any alleged discrimination against you. This may involve the employer paying compensatory damages. The EEOC would normally approach the employer with the details of your complaint of age discrimination, and then arrange mediation before making a decision about what your employer should be requested to do. Your employer is not allowed to retaliate against you because you have brought your case to the EEOC while an investigation is taking place.
The success you have with your claim will depend on the exact circumstances and how well prepared you are with proof that age discrimination has happened.
The EEOC will attempt to remedy the act(s) of discrimination against you. For example, if you have been fired because of your age, your employer may be asked to reinstate you in the same position as before (but only if your age was the only reason why you were fired). If you have been paid less than you should have been paid, then your employer will be asked to pay back pay. If you have been harassed or bullied because of your age, your employer will be asked to ensure that this does not happen again. If reinstatement is not possible after a dismissal, then your employer may be asked to pay front pay. Front pay is a payment in lieu of any wages you might have earned while you are looking for employment of the same type and pay scale as you lost through discrimination. Front pay would normally be determined by a judge.
Compensatory damages may be requested by the EEOC to pay for attorney’s fees and any losses that you have had to bear because of the age discrimination.
How an Employment Lawyer Can Help
Taking action against your employer because of age discrimination can be a stressful experience. You need to be well prepared and understand your rights. If you have tried to resolve the issue with your employer and have got nowhere, then you should talk to an employment lawyer about your situation. The lawyer can assess your case, suggest how you could improve what evidence you have of discrimination and advise you of your rights. If you don’t fit the description of someone whose case comes under the ADEA, then he lawyer can advise you how to file a claim with the relevant state body and what the state anti-discrimination laws are.