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Age Discrimination

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA") prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals based on age who are age forty or older if the employer has 20 or more employees. The ADEA does not protect independent contractors. The ADEA applies to private employers as well as public employers including the federal, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA") also protects employees who are age 40 and older from unlawful age discrimination if the employer has at least 4 employees. Unlike the ADEA, the PHRA does cover independent contractors who are in a profession regulated by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.

Age discrimination claims can be complex and often hard to recognize; and since age discrimination claims have a very short statute of limitations, it is important not to delay contacting an attorney. Failing to raise your claims in a timely manner will result in your loss of rights to sue your employer for its discriminatory actions.

If you feel you have experienced age discrimination, you probably have. Contact an attorney at Waldman Law Group, P.C. by telephone or the contact sheet to schedule a consultation to ensure that your legal rights are properly pursued with the assistance of sound legal counsel.

What types of employment decisions are covered by the ADEA?

The ADEA prohibits discrimination on the basis of age with respect to any term condition or privilege of employment including, but not limited to:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Promotion
  • Demotion
  • Job evaluation
  • Layoff and recall
  • Transfer
  • Compensation
  • Retirement plans

This list is only a sample of the aspects of employment decisions that employers cannot use your age to discriminate against you under the ADEA and PHRA.

How can I make a age discrimination claim? Can I sue now?

Before you file an age discrimination lawsuit in federal or state court, the ADEA requires that you first file a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") within 180 days of the discriminatory action. This strict time limit, often referred to as the "statute of limitations", applies to all charges of age discrimination. Failing to raise your age discrimination claims within that time will result in your loss of rights to sue your employer for its discriminatory actions. Since age discrimination claims have a very short statute of limitations it is important not to delay contacting an attorney.

When you file a charge of age discrimination with either of these agencies, you must allege all of the actions that you believe are discriminatory. Failure to do so may result in your losing the right to pursue those age discrimination claims against your employer with the EEOC or PHRC or in later court proceedings.

You can file a charge of age discrimination with the EEOC or PHRC by yourself if you are unable to obtain an attorney to assist you. However, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney so that you do not mistakenly omit essential facts and allegations of discrimination in such a charge, and by such omission, lose the right to pursue those claims against your employer. For more information and a more detailed explanation of the complaint process, please visit the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, website (http://www.phrc.state.pa.us/) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website (http://www.eeoc.gov/)

The attorneys at Waldman Law Group, P.C. are familiar with the procedures and processes of both the EEOC and the PHRC and are willing to assist you in your filings with the EEOC or PHRC. Contact an attorney at Waldman Law Group, P.C. by telephone or the contact sheet to schedule a consultation to ensure that your legal rights are properly pursued with the assistance of sound legal counsel.

When can I bring a age discrimination lawsuit in court?

After you file a formal charge with the EEOC or the PHRC, your employer will have an opportunity to respond. If your charge of age discrimination is resolved with the EEOC or the PHRC, you will not have to file a lawsuit in court.

However, in most cases, neither the EEOC nor the PHRC resolves these cases, and you will have to decide whether to file an age discrimination lawsuit in court if you want to continue to pursue your employer for its discriminatory practices. If neither agency resolves your claims of age discrimination, the appropriate agency will issue what is known as a Notice of Right to Sue indicating that you have only 90 days to file a lawsuit with the federal court or Pennsylvania state court. If you do not do so, you will lose forever your opportunity to hold your employer responsible for its acts of age discrimination. Since age discrimination claims have a very short statute of limitations it is important not to delay contacting an attorney.

What types of damages are available for age discrimination claims?

The ADEA remedies include actual monetary damages. These include:

  • Back pay
  • Up to twice the amount of back pay in the event of an employer’s "willful" violation of the ADEA by knowingly discriminating against the employee or acting in “reckless disregard” of the ADEA.
  • Differences in pay between your current pay and the pay you could have received if your employer did not illegally discriminate against you
  • Front pay
  • Pre-judgment and post-judgment interest on the back pay awards
  • Compensatory damages (i.e. pain and suffering or mental anguish)
  • Attorneys' fees and court costs

What other laws protect me from being discriminated against based on my age?

In conjunction with the ADEA, the Older Worker’s Benefit Protection Act of 1990 ("OWBPA") amended the ADEA to prohibit employers from discriminating against employees 40 years and older in the benefits offered to these employees by the employer. The OWBPA has a significant impact on situations involving early retirement offers, reductions in force, employment buyouts and other exit incentive programs for older employees such as severance agreements.

The OWBPA requires that individuals over the age of 40 considering signing an agreement for voluntary resignation or termination from employment be given at least 21 days to consider the agreement (or at least 45 days if the agreement is in connection with an exit incentive or other group termination program) to consider waiving their guaranteed rights under the ADEA. The OWBPA also provides that the employee be given an additional seven days after signing the agreement to revoke their signature.

You should never sign an agreement for an early retirement offer, employment buyout or any other exit incentive programs such as a severance agreement without consulting an attorney. However, if you have signed an agreement, but believe you have been subjected to age discrimination, you may still have a claim if you revoke the agreement in a timely fashion but you need to take action quickly.