How to Win an Age Discrimination Lawsuit

By Samantha Kemp

Federal and state laws protect older workers from being discriminated against or harassed due to their age.

According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, federal law prohibits discrimination against people who are age 40 or older. However, some states have passed laws that protect younger employees from age discrimination. Since 2007, there has been a surge of age discrimination complaints filed with the EEOC, going from roughly 19,000 claims to up to 24,582 claims at its peak. Because there is no guarantee with lawsuits, you can only hope to improve your odds of victory by being prepared and supporting your case with evidence as even the best cases sometimes lose.

Know the Legal Standard

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits discriminating against applicants or employees for being age 40 or older. A preference for an older employee is not an actionable claim under federal law. Additionally, the federal law applies to companies with 20 or more employees.

State laws vary, but some offer greater protections to employees. For example, they may provide claims for people age 35 or older, or they may allow you to file a suit with fewer than 20 employees being part of the business. Consider whether state laws are preferable to federal ones and file in the court that provides you with the greatest advantage.

Get Documents

Before filing your claim, attempt to get documents that show your history with your employer, such as performance reviews, discipline reports and records of promotions. Also, determine if there are other employees who have been discriminated against who are in the same age group. Robin Shea, an employment lawyer with more than 20 years of experience in the field, says that one of the most common ways to lose an age discrimination lawsuit is by the employee believing that he has been singled out when, in reality, younger workers were also terminated for the same conduct.

Hire the Right Attorney

"A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client." -- English proverb

Do not attempt to represent yourself in a case of this nature. You have a heavy burden to prove and are more likely to be successful by hiring a lawyer. Look for one with a proven track record of success in employment discrimination cases.