How to Fight Job-Related Age Discrimination

In this world of corporate downsizing and Americans working beyond age 65, job-related age discrimination can occur in the workplace. However, federal law prohibits age discrimination against employees and wronged employees may have legal recourse.

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act addresses the rights of most workers age 40 and older to receive fair and equal treatment in the workplace. Employers who regularly employ less than 20 employees are not covered by the law.

If you are a victim of age discrimination, you may file a charge or complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Contact the Jackson EEOC office toll free at 1-800-669-3362, and an EEOC official can assist you.

A charge must be in writing and include your name, age, and telephone number; the company in question, and a detailed description of the discriminatory act. You must file this charge with the EEOC within 180 days of when the discrimination took place.

Following the charge's filing, the EEOC will try to mediate the dispute between you and your employer. If this fails, the EEOC will investigate the charge, and if it finds the employer has violated the law, it will file a suit on your behalf in federal court.

If you believe age discrimination has occurred, but you do not want to file a charge against the company, you may file a complaint instead. A complaint authorizes the EEOC to investigate the matter. If you think you witnessed age discrimination against a co-worker, you may also file a complaint against the company. Whether the victim or an observer, you may request to remain anonymous as the source of the complaint.

With a complaint, the EEOC will investigate the matter and, if it finds the company at fault, will take appropriate action.

You may file your own age-discrimination lawsuit against your employer. However, you must register your charges with the EEOC and wait at least 60 days before filing your lawsuit. You have two years from the date of the discriminatory act in which to file the lawsuit. The EEOC may issue a "right to sue" notice, which means you must file your lawsuit in federal court promptly.

If the EEOC's investigation leads to the agency's filing suit on your behalf, your private lawsuit comes to an end, and government lawyers will represent you.

If you win your case, the court may order your employer to make restitution in several different ways. The court can: (1) reinstate you to your former job with your former salary and benefits; (2) award you back pay; (3) award you a money award for damages; (4) place you in a new position; and/or (5) award fringe benefits. The company may also be responsible for your attorney fees and other expenses, as well as court costs.