Older workers often lose their jobs as a result of a company’s group reduction-in-force, otherwise known as a “RIF. ” Other times the job loss is due to an individual wrongful termination or lay-off. Federal and state laws provide protection to employees to safeguard against discrimination.
One of the forms of discrimination that employees are protected against is age discrimination. If an employer chooses to lay off employees, it cannot use the employee’s age as a reason. If an employee suspects that age was a factor in the layoff he or she may have a legal claim against their former employer.
Federal & State Laws on Age Discrimination
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law that prevents an employer from using age as a basis for laying someone off, so long as the employee is at least 40 years old. The law applies to employers with at least 20 employees.
Pennsylvania state law also protects against age discrimination. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act protects employees, job applicants, and independent contractors who are between the ages 40 and 70. This law applies to smaller businesses that are beyond the reach of the federal law.
Both laws authorize employees to sue for compensation and non-monetary relief if they have been discriminated against. However, you must first report the discrimination to a government agency, which can investigate and, if necessary, sue the employer for violations of the relevant law. The lawyers at Console Mattiacci Law, LLC can file the appropriate paperwork for you at the government agency.
Proving Age Discrimination
If you feel that you have experienced age discrimination, you must report the discrimination to the appropriate government agency and prove that discrimination more likely than not took place. Under state law, you have 180 days to report the occurrence, otherwise, you may lose the right to pursue a claim and you will be unable to hold your employer responsible. Few pink slips will arrive with the words, “We’re letting you go because you are too old.” Nevertheless, there is evidence that can be used to establish a case against your employer, including but not limited to:
- Performance comparisons with younger employees, e.g., showing that older employees were selected for layoff despite superior performance
- Statistics demonstrating that older employees were disproportionately impacted by a group layoff
- Negative or stereotypical statements about an employee’s age contained in performance reviews, notes, or emails
- Unsolicited encouragement from the employer to retire, especially in cases where retirement was not previously discussed
If you feel that you have been discriminated against due to age in connection with a group layoff, you will need to present proof that you are over 40 and that age was a factor in the unfair treatment of you.. The burden then will shift to the employer to show that they had a legitimate reason for laying you off.
Legitimate Reasons to Lay Off Older Employees
The law allows employers to lay an employee off if they have a nondiscriminatory reason. However, if the employee can show the reason given by the employer is false or is merely a cover-up for discrimination then the employee can win the case.
Bringing a Lawsuit for Age Discrimination
If your claim does not resolve while in the agency phase, you might be left with no choice but to sue. Bringing a lawsuit allows you to receive both monetary and non-monetary compensation for your damages.
Under federal law, you may be able to receive the following:
- Wages and benefits lost because of the discrimination
- Possible reinstatement back into your job
- Liquidated damagesPunitive damages in retaliation cases
- Court costs
- Attorneys’ fees
Obtaining relief for discrimination is much easier with a qualified employment lawyer in Philadelphia to represent you. Every case is different and you should discuss the specifics of your case with a lawyer to understand how much relief you might be able to receive.
Contact a Philadelphia Age Discrimination Attorney
If you were recently laid off and feel age discrimination might be the reason, you should meet with an attorney to review your case. Age discrimination, like other forms of discrimination, can be hard to see, but an experienced attorney can spot tell-tale signs of discriminatory conduct.
At Console Mattiacci Law, we represent employees in age discrimination actions. If you feel that you have experienced age discrimination by your employer, do not hesitate to reach out to us today. You can schedule an initial consultation by calling 215-545-7676.