In a struggling economy, employment discrimination claims tend to rise, as job applicants, laid-off workers and terminated employees attribute their job losses to bias and illegal motive. Older workers are part of the trend of increasing discrimination claims. Their jobs are vulnerable because, with their longer tenure and greater experience, they cost employers more in a tight economy. Also, stereotypes about loss of speed and acuity might make employers question the value of older employees. However, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) provides redress for workers facing age discrimination.
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Things you need
- Your resume/curriculum vitae/job application
- Job advertisement/announcement
- Job description
- Credentials of other applicants
- Notes from interview/application process
- ADEA statute and regulations
Use an online case assessment tool to determine whether you have a valid age discrimination claim. If so, file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or cooperating state Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) agency if you suspect that you were denied a job for which you were qualified based on your status as a person over the age of 40.
Submit your ADEA charge within 180 days after learning of an adverse hiring decision if the job you sought was in the private sector or with a state or local government. Consult your state's fair employment or civil rights agency to check on their applicable statute of limitations, which for some states might extend the deadline.
File your complaint with the agency's EEO officer within 45 days of the employment decision if you were denied a position with the federal government because of age.
Fill out a charge form at your local EEOC office or mail a letter to the complaint processing address listed on the EEOC website. Include in the letter the following information: your name and contact information; the name and contact information of the discriminatory employer; the number of employees working for the employer (if known); a description of the discriminatory hiring actions by the employer and supporting evidence; dates and times of events; the fact that you believe the decision was made based on age (and any other protected characteristics that might have prompted discrimination); and a signature.
Provide all requested information to the EEOC or state agency investigating the age discrimination claims. Assemble your resume and job applications materials, a copy of the job advertisement or solicitation, any notes or information from the hiring process and interview, and any information available about the successful candidate or a suspicious withdrawal of the job opportunity if it was not filled.
Include the following elements in order to increase your likelihood of success: denial of a job opportunity, to an individual over the age of 40, who was qualified for the position, which was given to a less qualified younger person. Provide any information you have that will help prove those elements.
Follow the instructions provided by the EEOC or state investigative agency after the investigation is completed. You might be asked to cooperate in mediation or settlement negotiations on your behalf, or you might participate in a lawsuit litigated by the EEOC or agency.
If you receive a right-to-sue letter indicating the EEOC will not pursue the claim and you wish to proceed, file a complaint with your state or federal court. Seek the assistance of an attorney if you have the means to do so, or proceed pro se, or on your own behalf. In either case, follow the court's procedural rules for filing pleadings, making motions and proving your case.
Follow your agency's EEO process if you are a federal applicant or employee. Bring a claim before the EEO representative and allow the agency to conduct an investigation and attempt to negotiate a settlement. Proceed to the EEOC's division that handles federal claims, the Office of Federal Operations, if you do not reach resolution at the lower levels. Continue your claim by pursuing your case in court if you receive a right-to-sue letter.
Proving a Claim Under the ADEA
Tips and warnings
- Take care to follow all procedural requirements throughout the process. Also, provide all documentation and information available to you to support every element of your age discrimination claim.
- Court costs and attorney's fees can be expensive, and even job applicants with very strong evidence of age discrimination can be taking a risk. There is no guarantee that a judge or jury will view the situation the same way you do.
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- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Age Discrimination
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Age Discrimination in Employment Act text
- U.S. General Printing Office: Age Discrimination in Employment Act Regulations - 29 CFR 1625
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Overview of FederalSector EEO Process