Are you Planning on an Age Discrimination Lawsuit?
What does age discrimination at work look like? It looks like being the oldest person in the room and having one of the younger employees calling you an old man. It looks like not being asked for any input when the conversation in a meeting turns to something like Facebook. It also looks like being laid-off or being passed over regularly – even if you never really get to know that your age has anything to do with it. It’s a difficult job market out there and more and more workers are deciding not to retire just yet. Handling getting marginalized at the workplace has just become a harsh reality of working past 55. Not that anyone is taking it lightly. Over the past 10 years, age discrimination lawsuits have risen about 50% or more. To employees who feel cornered and without options, suing may often seem like the only thing left to do. The problem is, that while the law does protect you from age discrimination, it places the entire burden of proving that you are being discriminated against, on you. If there is no clear evidence, if what you have to say is only circumstantial, you’ll have quite a time making anything come of your lawsuit. And even if you do have clear evidence, these cases can drag on for years, they can be expensive to run and the courts may or may not decide in favor.
Even in the best possible case – where you win an award of a half million dollars for what you have suffered with the company’s age discrimination policies, you will usually give about half of what you win to your lawyer. You really have to make sure that you understand what you are getting into. It’s going to be no easy ride. The bottom line is that if you feel that you can actually prove that you suffered age discrimination at the hands of your company, if you can show that they haven’t shown you equal treatment in the way they hired you, it could actually make sense to sue.
What you need is solid evidence – the dates, the names of the people involved in the alleged age discrimination, and the exact dates and times that each incident occurred. You’ll need the exact wording of what was said and an exact description of what was done; you’ll need witnesses, some statistics on how the company has been promoting people or hiring and firing them. You also have to prove that whatever happens to you, your age is the main reason that it happened. It isn’t enough to prove that age may have been one of the factors involved. It doesn’t matter how unfair it was what happened. It only matters what you can prove. Consider your chances to be pretty good if you’ve been with the company for a long time and shown great performance.
Before you actually go ahead with your age discrimination lawsuit, make sure that you talk to a mentor about it; if you still have your job, make sure that you speak to your supervisor or boss, asking for what they think about what you have planned. Make sure that you don’t make it sound confrontational. Ask your supervisor if he might have another explanation for why you are experiencing trouble with the company. You can also talk to HR. These are people who will usually try to do something to avoid the possibility of a lawsuit.