Professor Claims Age Is Not Just a Number in Discrimination Case
There are advantages to getting older. Sure, your body starts to slow down a little bit, but there are a lot of perks to being in your golden years. Early bird specials. Government-funded healthcare. Social Security payments. Heck, you could run for president, win, and then run for reelection at 81 years old. Then, after you retire from politics, you might live another forty years!
Yes, it seems that nothing is stopping you from reaching your full potential. But what happens when others disagree? What happens when, because of the age of your birth certificate, people think you're old news?
Age Discrimination Protections in the US
In the United States, there are numerous federal, state, and local laws designed to protect employees from age discrimination. Two of the most common are the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975.
Under the ADEA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against any employee forty years or older in the workplace due to their age. This means that employers cannot make decisions of hiring, firing, terms of employment, compensation, promotion, or any other employment-based decisions on the factor of age alone. The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 further amended the ADEA to include such prohibited actions as singling out older employees for mandatory retirement.
If an employee wants to make a claim under the ADEA, they must first file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Unlike other EEOC claims, employees who want to file a federal lawsuit do not have to wait for a "Right to Sue" letter before filing a lawsuit. An employee can file a federal lawsuit claiming ADEA violations sixty days after filing the EEOC complaint or within ninety days after the EEOC concludes its investigation.
Similar to the ADEA, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination based on age. However, the 1975 Act differs from the ADEA in that it is not limited to people over forty and forbids discrimination based upon age in any federally-funded program, such as healthcare.
Professor Claims School Discriminated Based on Age
Age discrimination can happen to anyone, even in professions where age and experience are considered extremely beneficial, such as in education. A recent lawsuit involving a tax law professor is one example.
By all accounts, Professor F. Postlewaite of Northwestern University is an expert in his field. The author of more than fifty books on Tax Law, Professor Postlewaite is also the director of Northwestern's Tax Program, a highly competitive LLM program that is considered one of the best in the country.
However, in December 2013, Professor Postlewaite, then sixty-eight years old, turned down early retirement. According to Professor Postlewaite, he has since been offered lower increases to his base pay than colleagues with significantly less experience than him. Professor Postlewaite filed a claim with the EEOC in February 2023 and received his "Right to Sue" in August 2023.
As the complaint was only recently filed, Northwestern has not yet responded to the lawsuit. It still has plenty of time to respond, though Professor Postlewaite might assume they'll try to dismiss it before it gets too old.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Filing an EEOC Complaint or Charge (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Age Discrimination Law (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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