Unlike other employment discrimination cases, age discrimination can affect everyone. While some people may experience racial discrimination or discrimination based on their gender throughout their life, everyone eventually gets older, and can be a target for discrimination based solely on their age. Unfortunately, many people may not realize they are a victim of age discrimination because it is the first time they have been discriminated against.
Age Discrimination Laws
Individuals are protected from employment discrimination based on their age. This includes age discrimination in hiring, promotion, firing, layoff, benefits, compensation, training, or job assignments. There are both state and federal laws to protect employees against age discrimination. Laws against discrimination also apply to fair housing, financial credit, and public accommodations.
Under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), both employees and applicants who are 40 years of age or older are protected with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment. This applies to businesses with 20 or more employees.
The State of Illinois also has laws protecting individuals from age discrimination. Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, employees are also protected from discrimination based on age for individuals 40 years old or older. This applies to businesses with 15 or more employees.
The state laws also make it illegal for someone to help an employee or employer discriminate against someone. If an executive asked a supervisor to give an older employee a bad review, for discriminatory reasons, then both the executive and supervisor may be held accountable for age discrimination.
In some cases, age discrimination may overlap with discrimination based on a perceived disability. Some people may perceive older individuals to be less physically able to undertake certain activities, or to be weaker or slower. This may result in discrimination based on a perceived disability related to age. Discrimination based on a disability is prohibited by both the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Illinois Human Rights Act.
Signs of Age Discrimination From an Employer
In some cases, age discrimination may be conspicuous, such as a supervisor making jokes about an older employee not being able to handle strenuous work because of their age, or make comments about when an employee is going to finally retire.
However, in most cases, age discrimination from an employer may be difficult to recognize. After all, an employer will rarely make it obvious that they are discriminating against an older employee. Instead, the discrimination may be more subtle. Discrimination may take place silently, or an employer may not use the words “age” or “older,” but instead make comments about the company's “culture” or “fit.”
Some examples may include a hiring manager deciding not to bring in a qualified candidate for an interview just by looking at the age on their resume. A new supervisor may want to bring in newer, younger, and cheaper employees and get rid of the experienced older employee. An employee with a history of strong performance reviews may suddenly get a bad review, in order for the company to try and justify firing an older employee.
Age discrimination may come from business owners, boards, presidents, managers, supervisors or even other employees. In some cases, an upper-level manager may subtly, or not so subtly, urge supervisors to force out older employees. Age discrimination in the employment setting may come in many forms. It may also occur when an employee complains about the discriminatory actions towards another employee.
Discrimination may manifest in an individual's hiring, firing, reduced or different compensation, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits, or other conditions of employment. It may also involve constructive discharge, where the employer made or allowed working conditions to be so difficult that the employee was forced to resign.
Filing an Age Discrimination Complaint
In order to file an age discrimination complaint, the individual may first go to the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) to file a charge. A charge of discrimination must be filed within 180 days of the discriminatory employment or hiring action. The IDHR then goes through the process of intake; optional mediation; investigation; findings and results; and legal review. Under the Human Rights Act, the IDHR is required to complete the process within one year of filing, unless that time is extended.
At the same time, a discrimination charge may be cross-filed with the EEOC, if the workplace has 20 employees or more. The EEOC is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is the federal agency responsible for age discrimination cases. The federal deadline for filing a claim is 300 days after the discriminatory action. Even if you file both a state and federal charge, the IDHR may still conduct the investigation on the EEOC's behalf under a shared investigation agreement.
After intake, the case may go to optional mediation. If mediation is successful, a voluntary settlement may be reached. However, if mediation is unsuccessful, it will continue through the process. The respondent will have a chance to respond to the charge, and the IDHR will then investigate the claim.
The investigation process is supposed to be fair and neutral, but remember that the IDHR represents the state's interests. The IDHR recommends obtaining an attorney if you want someone to advocate for your or represent you. If your case is not resolved through the IDHR or EEOC process, you may request a “Notice of Right to Sue” from the EEOC, and then take your case to a federal court for resolution.
Often times, the employer may give a false reason for firing or not promoting another employee. This pretext or excuse is a way for employers to cover up their real motivations which may be based on discrimination. Some ways to show the defendant's stated reason was really a pretext showing that the defendant did not enforce rules equally, acted contrary to company practice or policy, or did not carry out procedures equally.
In many age discrimination cases, the employer may have left little evidence that the adverse action was due to age discrimination. Because of this, some age discrimination cases can be difficult to prove. Contact a lawyer with age discrimination experience to help you understand the legal process, and whether you may have a case against someone for violating state or federal age discrimination laws.
Compensation and Remedies
There are many remedies available for individuals who fight back against age discrimination. In the case of employment discrimination, an employer may be required to pay financial damages, including back pay with interest, attorneys' fees, and court costs. The individual may also be awarded punitive damages in some cases. These damages are intended to penalize the wrongdoer and deter similar discrimination in the future.
In addition to financial compensation, an employer may be required to reinstate the employee, promote the employee, or offer a reasonable accommodation.
Age Discrimination Attorneys
If you suspect that you were fired, laid off, or passed over for a promotion because of your age, you should speak with an experienced attorney who understands age discrimination cases. Our attorneys have successfully handled age discrimination lawsuits for our clients in Peoria and throughout the state of Illinois. If you have suffered financial or emotional injury as the result of age discrimination, contact your experienced Illinois employment law attorneys. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients the justice they deserve.