Lawyers Have to File Age Discrimination Lawsuits for Themselves Sometimes
People have differing views on attorneys. Some consider them money-hungry and willing to do anything for a dollar. Others look at them as champions of justice, protecting those who need it. But people seldom think of them as plaintiffs or defendants. In a New York case that was recently settled, attorneys were both plaintiffs and defendants. A collections attorney at Kelley Drye & Warren turned 70 in 2008. The firm’s policy at the time was to “de-equitize” any partner who decided to work after age 70. That means the attorney would lose all ownership in the firm and would only be paid a yearly bonus for any work done.
The attorney did not think this was fair, so he filed an age discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC protects various groups from discrimination based on religion, gender, race, origin and age. The attorney then filed a retaliation claim because his annual bonus dropped by two-thirds after he had contacted the EEOC. A lawsuit was filed by the EEOC on his behalf in January 2010. The lawsuit sought both compensatory and punitive damages for the attorney and also asked that the firm be prohibited from “engaging in any employment practices which discriminate on the basis of age.”
In April 2012, Kelley Drye & Warren settled the lawsuit against them for over $500,000. Additionally, they will provide training sessions on age discrimination for those involved in making employment decisions and they will inform the EEOC of any complaints of age discrimination they receive. When the law firm said they had voluntarily dropped the discriminatory policy after the lawsuit was filed in 2010, the EEOC defended their pursuit of the claim, saying many law firms still have these policies and “”We don’t think attorneys should be forced to leave their chosen profession simply because they reach some arbitrary age if they have the skill and the energy.”
This is not the first time a law firm has been sued over this subject. The EEOC filed a similar lawsuit against Sidley Austin for 32 former partners who felt they were discriminated against because of their age. Like the suit discussed above, the firm in this case ultimately settled in 2007 for over $27 million.
Law firms are not the only places of employment that have this type of policy. Although the numbers are decreasing, many universities, including several in Indiana, have a mandatory retirement age for higher-ranked employees such as deans. Other corporations have similar policies. While the reasoning for these policies is that it provides new blood and perhaps new ideas into the higher tiers of firms, universities, and companies, the policies do not account for the fact that people are living longer, healthier lives and are still able to provide significant contributions to their employers in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s.
If you are over the age of 40 and are feeling pressured to leave your job or have been forced to quit because of your age, it is important to contact a Kentucky or Indiana employment attorney to discuss your situation. You may be entitled to keep your job or to compensation for lost wages and other damages incurred. Attorney Steve Frederick, located in Louisville, is able to help employees with all types of job-related issues throughout Kentucky and Indiana.
Law firm settles age discrimination case with EEOC; Thomson Reuters; Leigh Jones; April 10, 2012
EEOC Sues Law Firm Kelley Drye & Warren for Age Discrimination and Retaliation; EEOC; January 28, 2010
EEOC Sues Kelley Drye, Says Pay Policy for Older Lawyers Discriminates & Seeks Sweeping Relief; ABA Journal; Martha Neil; January 28, 2010