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It is now common for people to remain in the workforce beyond the traditional retirement age. Employers, however, often prefer to hire young employees, whom they may perceive as being less expensive. When an employer fires an older employee to replace him or her with a younger employee, a wrongful termination claim may arise. Losing a job can be devastating to workers beyond a certain age, who may have fewer prospects than someone who is younger. If you feel that your employer may have taken an illegal action against you, contact the experienced employment discrimination attorneys at Parks, Chesin & Walbert. We have helped many clients in Atlanta and beyond learn about their rights.Age Discrimination in Employment Act
Employees age 40 and older are protected from age discrimination by The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), as long as they work for a company that employs 20 people or more. The ADEA makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on age in compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces this law. To pursue a claim under the ADEA, employees must file a charge with this federal agency within 180 days of the discrimination.
When there is no direct evidence that age motivated termination, the employee must prove a prima facie case. This requires showing that he or she is 40 or older, was discharged by the employer, and was meeting performance expectations at the time of the firing. It is no longer necessary to show that the person who replaced the claimant was younger than 40. Once the employee makes the prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to show there was a non-discriminatory reason for the termination.
It may also be possible to have a viable case under the ADEA even if the employer did not replace the worker. A termination arising from a reduction in force, for example, can also be actionable if the employee is able to show that he or she was discriminated against based upon his or her age.
Potential remedies for an age discrimination claim under the ADEA may include reinstatement, back pay, front pay, and sometimes liquidated damages. If there is a finding that the discrimination was willful, liquidated damages can amount to double the back pay awarded. Employees are not, however, entitled to recovery of compensatory damages or punitive damages for cases arising under the ADEA.Waiver Enforceability
An employee may be asked to waive his or her ADEA claims as part of a severance package. To be valid, the waiver must meet the requirements set forth in The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act. It must be written in plain language, specifically waive claims under the ADEA, advise the employee to consult an attorney, allow the employee at least 21 days to consider the offer, and give the individual seven days to revoke his or her signature. Furthermore, the waiver may not include claims arising after its execution. It must also be supported by some consideration in addition to that to which the employee is already entitled.
Even when the employee has signed a waiver that meets these requirements, the document may still be unenforceable if the employer used fraud, coercion, or other improper means to obtain the individual’s agreement.Discuss Your Wrongful Termination Issue with a Knowledgeable Atlanta Attorney
The wrongful termination lawyers at Parks, Chesin & Walbert have a deep understanding of age discrimination laws and how they affect Atlanta workers. If you have a concern regarding this area, call us at 877-986-5529 or contact us online to set up a consultation. We have the skills and experience to evaluate your situation and advise you on your rights and responsibilities.