The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or ADEA, was passed in 1967. It is a federal law that makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee, in the terms of the conditions of their employment, because of the employee’s age.
The ADEA protects those who are over the age of 40 and applies to private employers with 20 or more employees, including local, state, and federal government. These protections apply to current employees as well as job applicants.
However, just because the law protects individuals from discrimination doesn’t mean that someone can automatically make a claim when discrimination is suspected. There must be clear and obvious circumstances in which civil rights have been violated, directly related to age.
The ADEA specifically prohibits the use of age as the basis for an employment decision, such as hiring, firing, incentives, training and promotion. Retirement, holiday pay, sick leave compensation, or other employee incentives are also covered under the ADEA.
Remedies for any civil rights violation related to age include reinstatement, back pay reimbursement, compensation for liquidated damages, plus attorney fees and expenses. If reinstatement isn’t practical, an employee can be awarded front pay, which basically means early retirement.
Any employee that suffers age discrimination may also be awarded compensatory damages, to make them whole, for pain and suffering as well as injury to their reputation.
If you think you’re being discriminated against, you should do the following:
1. Write down any age-related derogatory comments, who said them, and when. If other employees were present, or if you are aware of any other witnesses, be sure to document their names as well.
2. If you’re told that you must be terminated because of your high salary, ask if you can work with reduced pay. This helps to determine if the real issue is money or age. An employer who intends to fire an employee due to age may attempt to hide their true intentions due to fear of ADEA claims.
3. Keep a diary of promotion opportunities and whether you were passed by in favor of younger, but equally qualified, employees. If you inquired about the promotion but were given an excuse as to why you were not chosen, be certain to write it down.
4. Seek the experienced advice of a trust-worthy Chicago attorney specializing in age discrimination and civil rights violations. They will help you to maneuver through the ADEA legal process, give you peace of mind, and help you to recover damages or lost wages.
The ADEA has numerous pit-falls and loop holes, many of which employers are completely aware. Be careful to protect yourself and your rights by educating yourself about this type of discrimination. If you believe that you’re a victim, it is important for you to stand up for yourself and your civil rights. Remember, employers can, and will, continue to discriminate unless victims speak up, and speak out.