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Questions about AEDA Law

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), protects both employees and applicants over 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in various aspects of employment. These include compensation, promotions, hiring, discharge, and other terms and conditions of employment. Often, dissatisfaction over compensation and severance pay lead to lawsuits against companies.

Below, some of the top questions on age discrimination laws are answered by legal experts.

Our company is laying off people and explicitly targeting older workers. I may be notified before turning 40 years, though I will reach that age by the separation date. Will I still have rights under ADEA?

To be eligible under ADEA, an employee will have to be 40 years at the time of notification of termination. Workers over 40 may receive higher pay than other employees, which might be considered a valid business reason for termination by the court. If you can prove beyond doubt that the company is specifically targeting employees approaching the age of 40, it would be considered in bad faith by the EEOC. However, such claims will be investigated by the EEOC before they are submitted in court.

My company is proposing a two-months’ severance pay if I sign the separation agreement though I have served 10 years. However, another employee got one month’s pay though he had worked only for a year. Is this discrimination under ADEA?

Companies are free to choose what severance pay they will award as the law does not mandate companies to pay severance. However, if the company has a written policy for calculating the severance pay, they are obliged to follow the procedure. Also, they may not do so in violation of anti-discrimination laws, which ensure the rights of protected groups.

Find out if they have a valid, non-discriminatory reason for awarding you a severance pay less than your colleague — is he senior in position or is the company financially weaker compared to last year? You may possibly be able to negotiate for a better severance pay, but the final pay out would be at their discretion.

Should there be a substantial difference in age to file a claim under the ADEA?

The U.S. Supreme Court case of Gross vs. FBL Financial Services 2009 explicitly states it is age itself and not age-difference that is a deciding factor in cases under ADEA. Also, the burden of proof that age was indeed the reason for an adverse employment decision lies with the plaintiff. Even in cases in which the plaintiff has produced some evidence to show age was a factor for discrimination, the burden of proof will not shift to the company. The Supreme Court decision, which applies to all parts of the country, also states there will no longer be a “historically disadvantaged” age classification applied to ADEA cases.

What’s the procedure for filing a complaint under ADEA with regards to discrimination under sex, race and age?

Local rules in federal district courts may vary on filing a federal complaint. You may have to show you were discriminated against because of your age, race, or sex and not a reason related to work situations. You would need to spell out the facts to state the actual basis for filing a suit and request for jury trial. If you wish to file a Title VII complaint, approach the EOCC with a complaint and obtain a right-to-sue letter. Since the statute of limitations is 180 days, you must file your complaint within that time.

As a 43-year-old African American, I feel that my severance pay has been unfair. Since it has an ADEA waiver, am I entitled to more than what those less than 40 years old receive?

Unless there is a written agreement to the contrary, your employer may treat you differently as long as it is not illegal discrimination, the definition for which includes discriminating based on age, race, sex, national origin, disability, FMLA usage, filing for worker’s compensation, or past, current or future military obligations. If you feel your employer’s actions fall within these definitions, you may make a claim with the EOCC against your employer. This charge must be filed within 180 days from the date of the alleged violation.

Employees over 40 years are protected under ADEA as long as the discrimination is based on a reasonable business decision. It is best to ask a legal expert about your specific case.
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