Note: This was featured as part of our Wednesday segment on Charleston’s 105.5 The Bridge with Box in the Morning. You can catch us every Wednesday morning at 8:50 am ET for the latest law tips and legal news. You can listen to the segment below:
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is a federal law that protects employees from age-based discrimination in the workplace. The law prohibits discrimination in hiring, compensation, discharge, and more.
Age discrimination only applies to employees 40 years or older, and the company must employ at least 20 people. Employers cannot engage in adverse employment actions or terminate based on age. Adverse actions include reducing pay, hours, insurance coverage or benefits.
The law covers most jobs, with a few exceptions like executive, policy-making positions and law enforcement positions. But for the majority of jobs, you are protected under the act as long as you are adequately performing your job and meeting an employer’s expectations.
If you are performing a job well and doing what’s expected in a position but you are suddenly discharged or replaced by a younger employee, this could be a sign of age discrimination. However, to pursue a case, age must be the determining factor. Lawyers often refer to this as the “but for” cause, meaning but for his age, he would not have been fired.
Employers must have a reason for termination, and in certain circumstances lie to cover up age discrimination. This false reasoning for termination is called a pretext reason. If explanation or reason for termination is found to be untrue, it can help advance an age discrimination case.
If an employer hires a younger person to replace you, but changes the position title, you can still pursue a case. It is the duties required of a position, not the title, that matter in these cases.
However, pursuing a case is not as simple as hiring an attorney and filing a lawsuit for age discrimination. If you believe you’ve been discriminated against, you must go through the administrative remedy requirement. This requires you to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 300 days of the discrimination occurring. If the EEOC issues a right to sue letter, you can then file a lawsuit in federal court.
Employers use a number of defenses in age discrimination cases, including bona fide occupational qualification, in which they must prove an employee was let go for legitimate reasons. For example, if a job requires physical duties an older person can’t perform, the employer had legitimate reason for termination.
If you win an age discrimination case, there are a number of damages you may be awarded, including back pay for the money you didn’t receive after being wrongfully terminated, reinstatement to your position (or front pay if reinstatement is not possible), liquidated damages, and more.
If you have more questions about age discrimination, or believe you may have a case, contact the John Price Law Firm online or at (843) 552-6011.