Under federal and state laws, employers are forbidden from discriminating against job applicants or employees based on age. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act forbids employers from discriminating against applicants and employees who are 40 or older. The ADEA prohibits employers from discriminating against workers who are 40 or older in any aspect of employment. This includes a prohibition against age discrimination in hiring, firing, layoffs, promotions, benefits, compensation, training, and job assignments. Employers that have 20 or more employees are covered by the ADEA. This law also covers labor organizations and employment agencies. While the ADEA also covers local and state employees, state workers cannot sue for age discrimination under the ADEA. New Jersey also has an age discrimination law that provides additional protections. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler help people who have been the victims of unlawful age discrimination at their jobs.
Age discrimination charges with the EEOC
Before you can file a lawsuit against your employer, you are required to file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC. This is the federal agency that interprets and enforces federal anti-discrimination laws. You can also file a discrimination charge with a state agency. Under the law, filing discrimination charges with the EEOC or a state agency is a prerequisite before a lawsuit can be filed.
Once the administrative agency receives your charge, it may begin investigating your claims. The agency may attempt to negotiate a settlement or choose to litigate your case. It can also decide not to pursue your case. If that occurs, you will receive a right to sue notice. This letter gives you the right to file a lawsuit against your employer for age discrimination. After you receive the letter, the ADEA requires you to file your lawsuit within 90 days.
Age discrimination under the NJLAD
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination or NJLAD provides broader protections to workers than the ADEA. Under the NJLAD, employers are prohibited from discriminating against workers because they are older or younger than the other workers. The law does not only protect workers who are 40 or older. Instead, it protects all workers between the ages of 18 and 70 in New Jersey from age discrimination.
For example, if a restaurant in New Jersey advertises that it only wants people who are 30 or older to apply, that would be unlawful age discrimination under New Jersey law. However, it would not violate the ADEA. If the restaurant only hires people in their 20s and 30s and rejects applicants who are 40 or older because of their age, that would violate both the ADEA and the NJLAD. Your attorney can review the circumstances of what happened and explain whether you should pursue your claim with the state or federal agency.
What damages are provided under the ADEA?
If the employer has violated the ADEA, the court might order the employer to do the following:
- Paying the worker all of the benefits, wages, and other types of compensation that he or she lost because of the discrimination
- If possible, reinstating or promoting the worker
- If reinstating the employee is not possible, the court may require the employer to pay the employee compensation for his or her future lost earnings
- Liquidated damages if the employer acted in reckless disregard to the law or knew that its actions were unlawful
- Legal costs and attorney’s fees
Pain and suffering damages are not available under the ADEA.
Remedies under the NJLAD
While the ADEA limits the types of damages that are available to employees, some states have additional remedies under state age discrimination laws. If a court finds that an employer violated the NJLAD by discriminating against a worker based on age, the court may order the following:
- Reinstatement of the employee to his or her job
- Back pay, including the wages, benefits, and other types of compensation that were lost together with interest
- Front pay if reinstatement is not practical
- Damages for pain and suffering, humiliation, and emotional distress
- Attorney’s fees and court costs
Claims under the NJLAD that are litigated in the Superior Court may also result in punitive damages if the employer’s actions were particularly outrageous.
Get help from Swartz Swidler
If you believe that your employer or prospective employer discriminated against you because of your age, you should speak with the attorneys at Swartz Swidler. We can evaluate your claim and discuss whether you have grounds to file a claim. Contact us today by calling us or by filling out our online contact form.