Age Discrimination Lawyers
Older workers face unique problems later in their careers. Despite the fact that nearly half of the workforce is 40 years of age or older, age discrimination remains a prevalent issue in the workforce; in recent years, filed complaints of age discrimination have risen to as high as 25,000 annually. In this tumultuous landscape, it is important for older workers to know their rights.
Who is Protected from Age Discrimination?
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is the main federal source of protections against age discrimination across the United States. The Act covers employees 40 years of age or older. It prevents employers with 20 or more employees (25 or more in the case of labor organizations) from taking any adverse employment action against an employee because of his or her age.
In addition, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) provides similar protections for workers between the ages of 40 and 70 in Pennsylvania. The Act protects against discriminatory employment acts from employers with four or more employees.
What does Age Discrimination look like?
Illegal age discrimination includes any action an employer takes that discriminates against older workers in terms of hiring, promotion, discharge, working conditions and/or benefits/compensation. It also covers retaliatory actions an employer may take against an employee who complains about age discrimination in the workplace.
Some typical examples of age discrimination include:
- An industry that has changed significantly over the years such that older employees become less desirable and are singled out for different treatment.
- A younger manager is placed in charge and sees the older employees as slow and inefficient. Older employees are punished accordingly.
- Older employees are given new tasks and responsibilities that are designed to make them quit.
- Younger employees that are willing to work for significantly less and are angling to take the older workers’ positions. These employees undermine the older workers to advance in their careers.
- An older worker makes a complaint of age discrimination to HR and is subsequently retaliated against.
While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it is illustrative of the numerous ways in which illegal age discrimination makes its way into the workplace. It is important to note that instances of age discrimination do not necessarily need to occur between someone above 40 years old and someone below 40 years old. Age discrimination can occur when an employer treats a 45-year-old employee differently than a 65-year-old employee.
Evidence of Age Discrimination
Overt age discrimination is a rare occurrence. Oftentimes, proving age discrimination requires a culmination of several discriminatory employer actions and statements. Some of the main types of evidence that are often helpful in proving an age discrimination claim include:
- Direct negative statements about an employee’s age;
- Less direct, but still age-related, statements from an employer, such as statements that an employee should consider retiring or is too out of touch to use certain technology;
- Statistical disparities in the way members of certain age groups are treated when compared to other groups; and
- Evidence of prior age discrimination in the workplace.
Severance Packages and Waivers of Claims
If your employer offers you a severance package upon your termination from the company, it is legally allowed to ask you to sign a waiver of any ADEA claims you might have against the company in the future. It is always advisable to seek out the advice of an experienced age discrimination attorney before agreeing to a severance agreement in order to avoid signing away your rights too hastily.
Waivers of claims under the ADEA pursuant to a severance package must meet certain requirements in order to be valid. To maintain their validity, such waivers must:
- Be part of a severance agreement written in plain language;
- Specifically refer to the rights and claims under the ADEA that are to be waived; and
- Accompany a monetary benefit to the employee through compensation or other benefits that exceed that to which the employee is already entitled.
Additionally, the employee must be advised in writing that he or she should consider consulting an attorney and must be given 21 days to consider the agreement before signing it (45 days in the case of group layoffs). Employees have up to 7 days from the signing of the agreement to revoke their acceptance.
How do I Fight Age Discrimination?
If you believe your employer has discriminated against you because of your age, the first step is to file a charge against your employer. ADEA claims must be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Under the ADEA, an EEOC charge must be filed within 180 days of the employer’s alleged discriminatory act.
Similarly, those wishing to file a charge against their employer under the PHRA must file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory employment action. If an employee wishes to file a complaint under both the ADEA and the PHRA, he or she can file one complaint with the EEOC and have it cross-filed with the PHRC.
Once a charge has been filed, the EEOC will notify the employer and undertake an investigation into the merits of the case. If the EEOC decides that the case is strong enough to avoid dismissal, it may recommend that the employer and employee go to mediation or conciliation to resolve the issue.
If, at least 60 days after filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, the employee does not feel that his or her issue has been properly addressed, he or she may file a lawsuit against the employer. While litigation can be expensive and time-consuming, a successful age discrimination lawsuit can lead to a variety of remedies, including back pay, wages and benefits lost as a result of the discrimination, reinstatement, front pay, and attorney’s fees.
Hire an Attorney
Age discrimination cases are often complex and difficult to navigate alone. Each case requires a careful, focused, and thorough evaluation best conducted by a competent attorney who practices age discrimination and employment law. Depending on the particular facts of your situation and your specific goals, the attorneys at Kraemer, Manes & Associates will work with you to negotiate with your employer, file a Charge of Discrimination with the appropriate federal, state or local agency, and represent you in court.
Kraemer, Manes & Associates LLC “KM&A” is a law firm serving all of Pennsylvania with our principal offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Call KM&A in western Pennsylvania at 412-626-5626 or in eastern Pennsylvania at (215) 618-9185. KM&A can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.