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• Job Termination for Older Workers: Avoiding the Train Wreck

• How to Hire Your Age Discrimination Lawyer

• Recovering Your Damages in Age Discrimination Cases

• How to Analyze Your Damages Under The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

• The Role of the Forensic Economist in an Age Discrimination Case

 
Kramer + Crone AgeRights

Recovering Your Damages in a Age Discrimination Case

In the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Congress included a remedial section which specifically spells out the types of damages that are recoverable for a violation of the Act. Calculating damages recoverable under the ADEA is demanding and challenging. The ADEA provides for recovery of liquidated damages for willful violations of the Act. ADEA damages are divisible into 3 general categories: backpay, compensatory or liquidated damages, and attorneys fees and expenses. Back pay is money awarded to compensate the employee for the pay that he or she lost because of the unlawful discrimination. At trial, back pay can be determined from the day that the unlawful discrimination occurred until the day the judgment is entered. Back pay can also include payments for benefits lost during that same time period, including those payments that an employer would have made to an employee’s pension fund. In general, liquidated damages are computed by doubling the amount of back pay awarded to a successful plaintiff.

Also permitted under the Act, a jury can order reinstatement to the same or similar position. If no position is immediately available, or if there is substantial animosity between the parties, then an award of front pay may be appropriate. The decision to award front pay is in the discretion of the jury. Front pay can be awarded for a specific length of time, or it can be awarded until the age at which the plaintiff would have retired. Because the jury has broad discretion in its decision-making authority, this uncertainty presents a unique legal challenge for both counsel.

In situations where reinstatement is not granted, the pension issue can complicate the case valuation. If the former employee’s pension fund would have continued to accumulate until a given point in the future if not for the unlawful discrimination, then that amount can be recovered as well. Of course, recovery of future payments will be discounted to present value.

Age discrimination plaintiffs have a duty to mitigate their damages by seeking other employment. Income from a new job, contributions to pension funds, and severance pay will be subtracted from the awards of back and front pay. After a successful trial, the elements of recovery include pre- and post-judgment interest on the award. In addition, the ADEA expressly provides an opportunity for the jury to award attorney’s fees and costs of litigation.

The legal team must have the financial education and expertise to properly assist the forensic economist expert. Discipline is required for successfully determining "every dime" a former employee is due. In the end, this analysis always pays off.

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