What Is the Statute of Limitations For Filing an Age Discrimination Charge and Lawsuit?

You must file charges with the EEOC or a state agency within a set time after you face discrimination; once the agency issues you a right to sue letter, you may have as little as 90 days to file a lawsuit.

Updated by , J.D. · University of Missouri School of Law

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.

Prior to discussing these deadlines, we'll look at how age discrimination is defined and how to file an age discrimination complaint Finally, we'll identify the types of compensation you can receive if you win your claim.

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.

How to File a Charge of Age 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.

Right to Sue Letter

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.)

Deadline to File an Age Discrimination 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.

Check the website of your state's fair employment practices agency to learn the deadline where you live.

Damages for Age Discrimination: What Can You Receive?

If you prevail on an age discrimination charge or lawsuit, you'll be entitled to compensation (or damages, in legal terms). The types of compensation you can receive depends on whether you filed your claim under federal or state law.

For claims made under the federal ADEA, your damages might include:

  • lost back pay
  • future pay
  • the financial value of past and future benefits
  • liquidated damages (in cases of willful discrimination), and
  • attorneys' fees.

For claims under state law, you can potentially receive all of the above plus:

  • damages for pain and suffering or emotional distress, and
  • punitive damages.

Getting Legal Help for Age Discrimination

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.

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