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Age Discrimination Still Happens Reports Chicago Employment Lawyer

Dec 8, 2011

Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) December 5, 2011 – This reported case focuses on age discrimination. It resulted in a $27.5 million payment to those involved.

“This is an EEOC interesting case,” remarked Timothy Coffey, a Chicago employment attorney and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P.C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. “This case focuses on age discrimination, something that most people do not think happens anymore. However, it does, and this case is a clear example of that.”

Interestingly, the case involved an international law firm who allegedly forced 31 former partners out of their ranks of partnership because of their ages. Although the law firm says it did not force the 31 lawyers out of their firm because of their age, they nonetheless settled out of court and the settlement was approved by a federal judge. Often lawsuits that are settled out of court send a clear signal to the plaintiffs that their case had a great deal of merit, and may have won them a verdict in court.

The law firm of Sidley, Austin, Brown and Wood allegedly forced out the plaintiffs in this case under a 1999 firm reorganization. “This case also involved claimants forced out since the firm implemented a mandatory retirement policy in 1978,” Coffey added. The settlement would mean each former employee would receive roughly $860,000 to $1,835,510, depending on their status at the time they were forced out of the firm.

It would also stop the law firm from retiring, reducing, expelling, terminating, or reducing the compensation of the partners and changing the status of partnerships based on age. The firm may also not create or continue to have any formal or informal type of policy that mandates partners retire at a certain age, nor may they have a policy in place that the firm may grant permission for a partner to continue to practice after they have reached a certain age.

In this instance, the EEOC brought suit against the law firm under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits age discrimination for those more than 40-years-old. “This Act is applicable to companies with 20 or more workers and prohibits them from making decisions for their workforce based on age. That typically includes salary, benefits, training, promotions, hiring and firing,” Coffey explained.

While it has to be said that the international law firm did have a novel defense, it did not stop the courts from deciding for the plaintiffs. The defense was that partners in a law firm are not considered to be employees under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. “This was a landmark case and it shows quite clearly that the EEOC does not back down from anyone in ensuring the letter of the law is adhered to,” said Coffey.

Timothy Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. To learn more or to contact a Chicago employment attorney, visit Employmentlawcounsel.com.

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