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Suing for Age Discrimination

When employers make hiring and firing decisions based on an individual's age, they open themselves up to being sued. This article explains what to do if you feel like you've been discriminated against because of your age.

How to Sue Employers for Age Discrimination

If you believe you are a victim of age discrimination, you may file a charge of discrimination with the the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC processes approximately 20,000 charges of age discrimination each year. In 2003, for example, EEOC resolved 17,352 age discrimination charges and recovered $48.9 million in monetary benefits for charging parties and other aggrieved individuals (not including monetary benefits obtained through litigation).

Filing a charge implies that an employer has violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age.

Note that you don't have to work for the employer to file a charge against them. If you applied for a job and you believe the employer did not hire you simply because of your age, you may have a case. You also don't have to be a victim of age discrimination to file a case. For example, if you observed age discrimination at your employer, objected to it, and were subsequently penalized in some fashion for your actions, then you may have a case.

Not all employers are subject to these age discrimination laws. Any employer with 20 or more employees must comply with the ADEA. All employees, including part-time and temporary workers, are counted for purposes of determining whether an employer has a sufficient number of employees.

If you feel you were discriminated against for your age, don't wait too long to file a charge. In most geographic areas, a charge must be filed with EEOC within 300 days from the date of the alleged discrimination. In a very small number of areas where a state or local employment discrimination law does not apply, a charge must be filed within 180 days.

If the EEOC determines that there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, a written determination and invitation to enter into conciliation discussions are issued to the parties. If conciliation efforts are not successful, the EEOC and/or the charging party may bring suit.

If you prove your case in court and can show that the employer has not had ongoing and effective efforts to avoid harassment and discrimination, you may be entitled to double damages.

Most age discrimination lawsuits are settled without a trial. Settlement terms vary considerably and are dependent on things like salary, lost wages, reinstatement, and how strong a case you might have.


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