When you’re over 40 and lose your job suddenly, it may be tempting to sue your former company for age discrimination, particularly if you received excellent annual reviews and your replacement is a decade or two younger.
But proving an age discrimination case is hard to do, even though age-related cases account for a growing number of complaints filed with the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Since 2008, the number of such complaints has risen to 23,000 to 25,000 each year from 16,000-19,000 annually between 1997 and 2007.
It has gotten harder and harder to win an age discrimination case, perhaps because employers who discriminate on the basis of age have gotten better at covering their tracks and hiding their unlawful behavior. To prove age discrimination, you need to prove that age was the motivating factor in your termination, something not so easy to do.
Although companies can lawfully fire any employee at will, there used to be an inference of age discrimination if you were terminated to save the firm money because you were older (senior staffers tend to make more money). But now courts consider that when a company is doing a reduction in force (RIF) it naturally wants to eliminate higher-paid employees.
To win an age discrimination case, a plaintiff must establish age discrimination as a motivating factor in the termination. If you are part of a mass firing, this will be extremely hard, but if you were singled out and your employer or manager has said disparaging things about your age, your prospects may be better, particularly if you have those remarks in writing (in an email, review, or as part of your employee file, for example).
Know That Bringing Suit Will Likely Burn Career Bridges
Even if you have the grounds to bring an age discrimination suit, suing your employer could be taking a big risk on your career future, as you will burn bridges and make getting hired again difficult. Potential employers tend to view job applicants who have sued for age discrimination as troublemakers and high-risk individuals to hire.
If you believe that you have been the victim of age discrimination, contact a business lawyer at O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Foss online, or call 701-235-8000 or 877-235-8002 (toll-free) today.
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