If you are considering suing your employer for age discrimination, there are some important time limits you need to know. First, you must file a charge of discrimination with a state or federal administrative agency before you can file your lawsuit -- and this charge must be filed within a set time limit. Once the agency issues you a right to sue letter, you have another deadline for actually filing your lawsuit in court.
What Is Age Discrimination?
Employers may not discriminate against employees or applicants who are at least 40 years old because of the age. This prohibition applies to every aspect of the employment relationship. An employer may not refuse to hire older workers, favor younger workers for promotions and plum assignments, or require workers to retire when they reach a certain age. An employer also may not deny opportunities to older employees by, for example, passing them over for raises or failing to consider them for training programs.
Filing a Charge of Discrimination
If you want to sue your employer for age discrimination, you must first file a charge of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a state fair employment practices agency. In states that don't have a law prohibiting age discrimination (most do), you must file a charge within 180 days of the discriminatory act. If your state has a law prohibiting age discrimination, this deadline is extended to 300 days.
Many states have a worksharing agreement with the EEOC, by which a charge filed with one agency is automatically filed at the other. This protects your rights under both the ADEA and your state's law. If your state doesn't have such an agreement, you can file charges with both the state and federal agency.
Once it receives your charge, the agency may try to mediate your case, investigate it, or even litigate it on your behalf. The agency may also decide to dismiss your charge. Once the agency is through, it will issue you a right to sue letter, stating that you have met the charge-filing requirement and may file a lawsuit. (If you know you are planning to file a lawsuit, you can ask the agency to issue a right to sue letter at any time.)
Filing a Lawsuit
Once you receive your right to sue letter, you have only 90 days to file an ADEA lawsuit. If you are filing a lawsuit alleging violations of your state's age discrimination law, you may have a longer time to file your suit.
Getting Legal Help
If you are contemplating legal action against your employer for age discrimination, you should consult with an experienced attorney. An employment lawyer can evaluate your case and assess your chances of success. A lawyer can help file your charge, try to settle your claims, and, if necessary, represent you in a lawsuit against your employer.