What Is Age Discrimination?
Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), age discrimination is an unlawful employment practice, which occurs when an employer considers an individual’s age when making employment-related decisions. The ADEA protects individuals who are at least 40 years or older.
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Age Discrimination in Employment Act
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)’s protections apply to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment including:
- Job assignments
The ADEA also prohibits retaliation for opposing age discrimination or filing an age discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADEA.
The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations, as well as to the federal government. Some statute anti-discrimination provie broader protection against age discrimination.
Proving Age Discrimination
In McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, the Supreme Court established the legal framework to pursue a case on discrimination for disparate treatment. The initial burden falls on the plaintiff to establish a prima facie case by showing (in a case involving a selection decision):
- that they belong to a protected class
- that they applied for and were qualified for a job for which the employer was seeking applicants
- that despite their qualifications they were rejected
- that the position remained open after their rejection and the employer continued to seek applicants similar to their qualifications.
A defendant must then show a legitimate reason for the taking the employment action. In response, a plaintiff can show by preponderance of the evidence that the legitimate reasons offered by the defendant were not its true reason, but were a pretext for discrimination. Texas Dept. of Community Affairs v. Burdine. Other defenses recognized by the ADEA include:
- differentiation based on factors other than age
- good cause for discharge or termination
- following a bona fide employee benefit plan
- failure to mitigate damages
Examples of Age Discrimination
- In December 2015, A rubber products manufacturer, Tepro Inc., was accused of age discrimination when it reclassified employees age 40 years and older from Tech II to Tech III positions. The suit was resolved when the defendant agreed to pay $600,000 to settle the charge.
- In April 2014, the EEOC charged PJP Health Inc. with age-related discrimination and refusing to promote a qualified employee due to her age. The defendant was accused of terminating two employees due to their age and a third for an age discrimination complaint they filed. The defendant agreed to pay plaintiffs $300,000 for age discrimination and retaliation.
- In September 2015, defendant Costco was charged with discriminating against plaintiff due to his age. The defendant made several age-related comments to the plaintiff and provided a false pretense for discharge. The court found Costco guilty of discrimination and awarded the plaintiff $268,916.
- In October 2014, the EEOC alleged that Hiline Electric Co. used age-based criteria in its hiring and recruitment process. The defendant agreed to pay damages in the amount of $210.000
- In EEOC v. Murphy School District, the EEOC alleged that since 2008 the school district followed a facially discriminatory Employee Early Retirement Plan which bestowed greater benefits to younger employees and disadvantaged older employees. The case settled for $138,000 and other relief.
Numerous remedies exist for victims of age discrimination including:
- Compelled employment
- Enforced liability for unpaid wages (Back or Front Pay)
- Double recovery in liquidated damages for willful violations
- Attorney’s fees and costs
In calculating damages, the the back pay period should extend to the date of the judgment, rather than to an earlier date on which the court announced its findings of fact following a bench trial. Nord v. United States Steel Corp., 758 F.2d 1462, 1472-73 (11th Cir. 1985).
Steps for Filing an Age Discrimination Claim
For employees in the the private sector, a charge of discrimination must be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of the discriminatory act. The 180 calendar day filing deadline is extended to 300 calendar days if a state or local agency enforces a state or local law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis.
For age discrimination, however, the filing deadline is only extended to 300 days if there is a state law prohibiting age discrimination in employment and a state agency or authority enforcing that law. The deadline is not extended if only a local law prohibits age discrimination.
Note: federal employees have a different charge filing process. Visit www.eeoc.gov for more information.
Some states enact their own statutes protecting employees from employment discrimination. These statutes tend to expand on the guidelines and provisions of federal law. Virginia introduced the Virginia Human Rights Act (VRHA) to prohibit illegal employment practices including discrimination based on protected characteristics like age, sex, race, religion, national origin, or disability.
Top-Rated Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia Age Discrimination Lawyers
Hiring a proven and effective advocate is critical to obtaining the maximum recovery in an age discrimination case. Eric Bachman, Chair of the Firm’s Discrimination Practice, has substantial experience litigating precedent-setting individual and class action discrimination cases. His wins include a $100 million settlement in a disparate impact Title VII class action and a $16 million class action settlement against a major grocery chain. Having served as Special Litigation Counsel in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and as lead or co-counsel in numerous jury trials, Bachman is trial-tested and ready to fight for you to obtain the relief that you deserve.
Bachman writes frequently on topics related to promotion discrimination, harassment, and other employment discrimination issues at the Glass Ceiling Discrimination Blog.
U.S. News and Best Lawyers® have named Zuckerman Law a Tier 1 firm in Litigation – Labor and Employment in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.
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