Age Discrimination Lawyer Cleveland, Ohio

What Is Age Discrimination?

If you are above 40 years old, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against you based on your age. Age discrimination occurs when you experience an adverse employment action (such as termination, demotion, or a reduction in hours or responsibilities) due to your age. It is also illegal to retaliate against someone who has filed an age discrimination complaint, such as complaining that a supervisor is treating you differently as you age or get close to retirement. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) covers federal age discrimination claims. Depending on where you live, state and municipal laws may also apply.  Ohio’s laws prohibiting age discrimination are similar.

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects employees who are at least 40 years old from age discrimination at work if their employers have at least 20 employees. The ADEA prohibits these employers from firing employees because of their age, forcing older employees into retirement, subjecting older workers to harassment based on age, and discriminating in benefits based on age.

Types of Age Discrimination

There are two types of age discrimination:

  • Disparate treatment: when an employer intentionally treats you differently because of your age; and
  • Disparate impact: when a policy (that appears neutral) has a disproportionately negative impact on older workers.

Under federal law, you can establish a prima facie age discrimination case if you can prove:

  • You were 40 years old or older;
  • You were qualified for the job;
  • You experienced an adverse employment action; and
  • You were replaced by someone substantially younger.

Depending on your claim, you might utilize different forms of evidence. Sometimes, you might have direct evidence of discrimination (such as statements from your boss that you were demoted because of your age)—but this is often rare. Instead, most age discrimination claims involve circumstantial, or indirect, evidence (such as an employer’s pattern of firing older workers).

How Do I File an Age Discrimination Complaint in Cleveland, Ohio?

Before you file an age discrimination complaint, you should organize your evidence and conduct proper research into the type of claim you might have, by speaking to a Cleveland age discrimination lawyer.  The complaint process and its filing deadlines will vary depending on whether you are making a federal or state complaint.

To file an EEOC charge, you must submit information about the alleged discrimination either in person or in a signed document called a Charge of Discrimination – You typically must file a federal complaint within either 180 or 300 days of the date of discrimination. Once the EEOC receives your complaint, it will investigate your claim.

Even if you have strong evidence of age discrimination, the EEOC might decide not to litigate your claim.

Instead, the EEOC will issue a “right to sue” letter after its investigation is completed or upon the request of your attorney. Under federal law, you cannot file a lawsuit using a Cleveland age discrimination lawyer until you have this letter.

Does my Employer Have Defenses?

Your employer has a series of defenses, which will vary depending on the circumstances surrounding your discrimination claim. They might include:

  • Bonafide occupational qualifications: An employer can make age-based employment decisions if they are reasonably necessary for the business operation.
  • Reasonable factor other than age: Your employer presents evidence that a policy or employment action was actually based on other, non-discriminatory factors.
  • Business necessity: An employer’s decision or policy is necessary for business operations (such as a reduction in force).
  • Compliance with a bona fide seniority system or other benefit plans: Your employer can assert that the adverse employment action was required under a bona fide seniority system, employee benefit plan, or early retirement plan.

Because these defenses are very fact-specific, it’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your claim. A Cleveland age discrimination lawyer can help you assess your case.

Can I Recover Damages for Age Discrimination?

If your employer violates age discrimination laws, you can recover damages. While damage awards vary depending on your circumstances, they can include:

  • Economic damages: compensation for your lost wages, costs related to a job search, and other expenses related to the discrimination; and
  • Punitive damages: additional compensation if your employer intentionally and willfully discriminated against you; and
  • Attorney fees: your employer must pay your discrimination attorney fees under certain circumstances.

However, you must attempt to mitigate your damage by searching for work during your discrimination claim. If you do not seek future employment, the court can reduce or completely eliminate your recovery.

Special Rules for Severance and Waivers

The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (“OWBPA”) is an Ohio law that also requires employers to follow certain rules when it comes to waivers that are contained in severance agreements presented to employees. A waiver is an agreement by which you give up your right to sue the company for age discrimination and any other type of claim, usually in exchange for severance pay. If your employer asks you to sign a waiver of your ADEA rights, the waiver must be in writing and meet all of the following requirements (among others):

  • It must refer specifically to your rights under the ADEA;
  • It must be written in language that is easily understood;
  • It must give you some benefit in exchange for signing (for example, severance or continued health coverage);
  • It must provide you at least 21 days to review and sign.

Your employer must advise you, in writing, to talk to an employment attorney before signing the agreement. And, your employer must give you at least 21 days to decide whether to sign (this is extended to 45 days if the waiver is part of an exit incentive program, such as an early retirement plan). Your employer must also give you seven (7) days to change your mind or revoke your signature after signing. To completely understand the circumstances surrounding your termination, contact an age discrimination lawyer from The Friedmann Firm at 440.703.8550.