Age discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee or applicant unfavorably because of his or her age. Laws on the federal and state levels protect employees and applicants from this type of discrimination if they are 40 or older. These laws do not protect individuals who are younger than 40.
Federal and state laws serve protected individuals by:
Prohibiting discrimination in every aspect of employment
Protecting them from harassment because of age
Prohibiting employment policies and practices that have a negative impact on those aged 40 or over
If you believe you have an age discrimination case and would like to sue your employer, you should contact an employment attorney. He or she can guide you through the steps necessary to file a lawsuit.
Before You Can Sue Your Employer
Before you can sue your employer, you must file a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). The EEOC is a federal agency that enforces civil rights laws. You must file this charge within 180 days of experiencing the discrimination. You can file by mail or in person at one of the 53 EEOC field offices. You should request that your charge be dual-filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”) as well. The PHRC is a state agency that enforces civil rights laws.
Once you file the charge, the EEOC’s job is to investigate it. Sometimes, this investigation is a lengthy process. In most discrimination cases, you have to request a Notice of Right-to-Sue from the EEOC before you can file a lawsuit. You are not allowed to request this notice until 180 days into the investigation.
Fortunately, in age discrimination cases, you do not need to request a “right to sue letter” before filing a lawsuit. You can file your age discrimination lawsuit in a court of law 60 days after filing the charge with the EEOC. Keep in mind, however, once the EEOC concludes its investigation, you only have 90 days to file a lawsuit. The EEOC will notify you once it concludes its investigation.
Where to File Your Lawsuit
Your lawsuit can be filed in one of two places: federal court or state court. Where you can file is determined by the laws you allege discrimination under. In age discrimination cases, two significant laws are the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”). The ADEA is a federal law that protects employees and applicants from age discrimination. The PHRA is a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania law that protects these individuals from this type of discrimination, among others.
If you allege discrimination under a federal law (e.g., ADEA), you must file in federal court. If you allege discrimination under a state law (e.g., PHRA), you must file in state court. If, however, you allege discrimination under both federal and state laws, you can file in either federal or state court, but not both. If you have a choice, it may be wise to file in federal court, since federal cases are typically resolved more quickly.
An employment attorney can help you organize your age discrimination case and walk you through the steps necessary to prepare for and file a lawsuit.