Some employers think that employees who reach a certain age “lose a step,” or are less productive or efficient. But treating an employee differently because she or he is older is age discrimination, plain and simple, and is illegal under both federal and state law.
Taking any adverse action against an employee between the ages of 40 and 70—other than for reasonable job criteria that require age distinctions—is prohibited, but nevertheless continues to happen. It is especially upsetting for older workers who have earned the respect that comes with years of diligent service. Hall & Lampros employment discrimination attorneys have fought for these workers, and won, including in one case where the jury awarded an older female worker the maximum amount allowed by law after asking if it could award more.
If you believe you may be the victim of age discrimination on the job, reach out to the experienced Atlanta employment discrimination attorneys at Hall & Lampros, LLP, at 404-876-8100 for guidance about your rights and how we can help.
You Are Protected by the Law
Workers in Georgia are protected by the state’s ban on workplace discrimination based on age and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which applies to all employers with 20 or more employees. If an employee is in the protected age group (at least 40 years old), treating them differently or terminating their employment because of age is against the law. While the federal law includes no upper age limit for protection, Georgia’s state law caps age discrimination at the age of 70. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against employees who make complaints about age discrimination in the workplace, or who participate in proceedings before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to enforce the ADEA.
Proving Age Discrimination
In order to bring a successful age discrimination claim, the following basic elements must be met:
- You are in the protected age group (at least 40 years old);
- You experienced an adverse employment action by your employer, such as refusal to hire, demotion, or termination;
- Someone else who was substantially younger than you was not treated the same way, or it can otherwise be proved that had you been substantially younger, you would not have experienced the adverse employment action.
Once these elements are met, an employer must rebut the presumption of age discrimination. Most employers do not openly state their intent to discriminate based on age. Instead, once an employee has made the threshold showing, the burden shifts to the employer to articulate what is referred to as a “legitimate non-discriminatory” reason for the refusal to hire, demotion, or termination, or other adverse employment action. At this stage, employers often falsely claim that an employee was not qualified (or over-qualified), performed poorly, violated work policies, or engaged in other misconduct, all in an effort to cover up discrimination. And that is the employee’s burden of proof in court—to prove that the employer’s reason for the adverse employment action is “pretext” for unlawful discrimination.
Proving an employment discrimination case with circumstantial evidence can be very difficult. Many times employers hide the truth and defense lawyers attempt to keep the employee from developing the evidence they need to be able to present their case to a jury at trial. But Hall & Lampros employment discrimination attorneys are experienced not only in employment law but also in proving cases at trial.
The Filing Process
If you have an age discrimination claim, the first step is to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, which is responsible for implementing the ADEA. The EEOC process involves investigation of your allegations, including possibly interviewing you as well as witnesses and other people who worked for your employer, and obtaining and reviewing documentary evidence. Once the EEOC compiles this information, it will make a finding as to whether there is reasonable cause to believe that age discrimination occurred. If it finds in your favor, it may refer your case to mediation, or engage in a process called “conciliation” in an effort to resolve the case, provide you with compensation, and ensure that the employer takes steps to prevent age discrimination from ever happening again.
There are strict deadlines for pursuing an age discrimination claim—in Georgia, age discrimination charges must be filed with the EEOC within 180 days of the act of discrimination you are challenging. However, after 60 days have passed, you can file your age discrimination case in court. You can also file your discrimination case in court if the EEOC does not find in your favor and instead issues the Notice of Right to Sue.
Remedies and Damages in Age Discrimination Cases
With your charge of age discrimination or a court case based on the age discrimination, you can seek the following damages:
- Your lost earnings and economic benefits of employment, including lost wages, 401(k) contributions, pension benefits, and reduction in Social Security benefits;
- An additional amount known as “liquidated damages,” which is equal to the amount of lost earnings and economic benefits of your employment.
Additionally, you may be eligible for what is known as equitable relief, which is intended to help right the wrong you experienced as a result of age discrimination. Examples include:
- Reinstatement to your job, or a reasonable amount of “front pay” or your salary for a period of time into the future if you have not obtained a comparable replacement job;
- A promotion you missed out on; or
- A wage increase you missed out on.
Often, victims of age discrimination lose a tremendous amount because they are at the top of their earning capacity after many years of developing experience and skills. But even when a person does not earn a high amount, they are still entitled to be free from age discrimination in the workplace, and Hall & Lampros employment discrimination attorneys are ready to help.
An Experienced Atlanta Employment Discrimination Attorney is on Your Side
If you are the victim of age discrimination in the workplace, the accomplished employment discrimination attorneys at Hall & Lampros, LLP recognize how difficult your situation is and have the legal insight, experience, and compassion to help. To learn more, please contact or call us at 404-876-8100 today or submit a confidential inquiry for a free consultation.