Age Discrimination Lawsuits
What Are Age Discrimination Lawsuits?
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) has made filing age discrimination lawsuits much easier than was the case not too many years ago. Perhaps the greatest hurdle to overcome in filing an age discrimination lawsuit is that very often the discrimination can be subtle in nature and therefore difficult to prove, and in some cases it might even have been imagined, and did not in fact actually occur. An age discrimination lawsuit is not the only course of action a party may take however. In fact is not necessarily the best course of action to follow in many instances.
The EEOC - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the commission that oversees complaints and charges of age discrimination, and while those who work for the EEOC must of course make every effort to be fair and objective while relying on the facts at hand, they can still be a very powerful ally for someone who feels they have been discriminated against because of their age.
In many cases the EEOC prefers, or at least recommends, that an age discrimination issue be settled by the parties in question though mediation whenever possible, thus avoiding lengthy and sometimes costly court battles. Another route sometimes recommended is that both parties submit to binding arbitration, an approach that both sides don't all that often wish to follow. In any event, the first step in dealing with an incidence of age discrimination is that of filing a claim of age discrimination with the EEOC.
ADEA Protection - Filing a claim is not the same as filing an age discrimination lawsuit, as the courts are seldom initially involved. If the EEOC is of a mind that discrimination has indeed occurred, the filing of a lawsuit may be the direction eventually taken. The ADEA is designed to protect any employee or prospective employee age 40 and over from discrimination, and not just senior citizens over the age of 65 as is often commonly believed. One of the reasons behind the Act being passed in the first place was due to the practice of some companies of laying off or firing employees who were approaching retirement age, but had to first reach that age to receive full benefits. The Act is also designed to protect individuals from being replaced by younger people could be hired to do the same work at a lower wage.
As in any lawsuit, it helps to have a witness, though in filing a charge with the EEOC, a person's word is initially usually good enough. One does not file a false claim with the EEOC without the risk of running into serious trouble. Still, the proof is often to some extent on the shoulders of the victim. If the employer who is being charged with age discrimination has a past record of such a practice, or has failed to curb that practice, the person filing the claim will be at a distinct advantage and may even in some instances receive double damages.
A Time-Consuming Process - Needless to say, the time between filing charges with the EEOC and filing age discrimination lawsuits in court, often done by the EEOC, can be lengthy, as those investigating the cases will often have to interview a number of individuals, look at past instances of real or perceived discrimination, and determine whether a filing a lawsuit, going through mediation, or submitting to binding arbitration makes the most sense. It's always a good idea to remember names, take notes, and document what took place during meetings or interviews so that the facts are in hand before submitting a claim. It's also wise to make certain that the purported act of age discrimination was real (“you're too old”) and not imagined (“we no longer have a position in line with your unique qualifications”).