In these tough economic times, it is hard enough to find a job when you're fresh out of college or trade school and have the enthusiasm and energy that comes with youth. However, when you're in your 30s, 40s, or 50s and looking for work, you are competing against those who have much less experience than you but have the appeal of being young, trainable, and fresh. While employers are prohibited from discriminating based on age, it happens every day, and if you are over 40 and find yourself job hunting, you may find that you are turned down because you're too old.
Another common scenario is being let go from your job and being replaced by someone younger and less experienced who will accept a much lower salary than what you were making. If you feel you have been discriminated against due to your age, an experienced employment lawyer can explain the laws to you and advise you of whether or not you have a valid legal claim.
Most states and the federal government have laws that prohibit private persons, organizations, and governments from discriminating due to age. In employment situations, individuals are protected from age discrimination by employers on the basis of age under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Generally, workers over the age of 40 are protected. Age discrimination can be difficult to prove because you must prove that you have been treated unfairly. This may be easier to prove if your employer has a history of doing this to others in your age range.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is charged with enforcing federal discrimination laws and will investigate claims of age discrimination in the workplace. Typically, in order to file a federal lawsuit, a claim must first be filed with the EEOC. Due to the complexity of employment law, there is no way to fully explain all aspects of the law here, but your employment lawyer can explain everything to you in great detail. The deadline for filing a claim with the EEOC is 180 days after the discriminatory act occurred.
Pursuing an age discrimination claim can be difficult because procedural laws vary depending on where and when the claim is filed. A lawyer will help you with the filing deadlines specific to your claim. Also, because the EEOC investigators will not get to your claim immediately, a lawyer can help you investigate and pursue other options, if applicable. You should also consult an employment lawyer before signing a waiver or other severance package as this could affect your ability to file a claim.