Do You Need an Age Discrimination Lawyer?
Are you an older employee facing wrongful discharge?
- Does your boss see your age as a burden rather than a positive contributor?
- Is your company pushing out older workers — while trying to market itself as “young”?
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that forbids discrimination against job applicants and employees 40 years old and older on the basis of age. ADEA protection covers hiring, training, benefits, compensation, promotion, firing, layoffs, and other terms and privileges of employment. If you were adversely affected or wrongfully fired because you're an older worker, the ADEA may help you get your job back.
The attorneys at The Employment Law Group® law firm are experienced in representing employees in ADEA proceedings, both before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — which enforces the law — and in federal court. Several of our cases have broken new legal ground, helping to establish the ADEA as a pillar of workplace protection.
In one ADEA case, for instance, our attorneys established that age-related code words — such as “energetic” — may be signs of a discriminatory environment. Our firm is based in Washington, D.C., but we take cases nationwide.
Important statutes in this area of law:
Unlawful employment practices; enforcement; application to those over 40 and compulsory retirement
Notable TELG cases in this area of law:
Euphemisms for age such as “young” and “energetic” may be actionable under the ADEA.
If you have suffered illegal discrimination under the ADEA, you may be entitled to back pay, front pay, liquidated damages if the violation is willful, and attorney’s fees.
As with all legal claims, deadlines are crucial. A charge of discrimination is filed with the EEOC or state or local Fair Employment Protection Agency (FEPA). To be timely, it must be filed within either: 300 calendar days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred if it occurred in a state with a FEPA; or 180 days after the alleged unlawful practice occurred in other states.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the ADEA’s protections for older workers?
The major components of the ADEA include the following:
- Employers must not discriminate on the basis of age at any stage of the employment process against anyone 40 years of age or older.
- Employers are prohibited from discriminating based on age in advertisements for available positions, the application process or interviews. Ads may include age limitations only if age is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) based on business necessity; this is a very narrow exception.
- Employers must not discriminate against older workers when reducing the size of their staffs.
- Employers may not force their employees to take early retirement, but they may offer early retirement incentive packages.
- Workers who take action under the ADEA cannot be retaliated against for filing, testifying about or participating in a claim against an employer.
- Under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA), an amendment to the ADEA, an employer typically may not reduce or deny benefits for older employees. In certain situations, however, benefits for older workers may be reduced if the reduction renders the cost of benefits for older workers equal to the cost of benefits for younger workers.
What do you need to prove an age discrimination claim?
You must be over 40 years old, have suffered an adverse employment action, and point to signs of discrimination. This could include a direct statement: “We are moving in another direction because you are too old.” Or it can be more indirect: “We are making room for those with more energy.” Or it may simply be circumstantial, based on how the employer is treating all of its older workers. After you show this, the employer has a chance to respond that its decision was not discriminatory. Then you can rebut that reason as false or pretext.
My employer wants me to waive my ADEA rights. Is that legal?
An employee may waive his or her rights under the ADEA at the request of an employer in exchange for a severance package or other consideration. The ADEA sets out specific standards that must be met before a waiver of rights can be considered knowing and voluntary. A valid ADEA waiver must:
- Be in writing
- Be understandable
- Specifically refer to the employee’s ADEA rights or claims
- Not waive any potential future rights or claims
- Advise the employee to speak with an attorney before signing the waiver
- Provide the employee at least 21 days to think about the waiver and at least seven days to revoke the wavier after signing it
If your employer asks you to waive your ADEA rights, you should consult a lawyer before you do so.
What can you do if you believe you’ve been discriminated against?
Employees and job applicants have the right to be free from age discrimination in hiring, firing, promotion, training, benefits, compensation and other aspects of the employment relationship. In addition to the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, state laws also protect employees from age discrimination. If you have been discriminated against because of your age, contact an attorney to discuss your legal claim.