Age Discrimination in Employment in Minnesota
Minnesota is an “at-will” employment state. That means that your employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all – even a stupid, incorrect, unfair, or unethical reason – provided that it’s not an illegal reason.
One illegal reason for making any employment decision about an employee is age. Your employer can’t make any decision about you – including hiring, termination, pay, raises, leave, suspension, hours, or discipline – on the basis of your age. Making employment decisions even partly on the basis of age is prohibited by Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act and state law in the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
Age discrimination comes in many forms. Sometimes employers will make comments that indicate they are considering an employee’s age in making decisions, such as: “How long are you going to be here?”; “When are you planning on retiring?”; or “How long do you think you can keep this up?” Sometimes they’ll even go further and make comments about “old farts,” “young guns,” or “getting rusty with age.” When followed by termination or lay-offs, these are pretty clear cases of age discrimination.
But sometimes it’s more subtle: the employer won’t make any such comments but you’ll notice that it’s only employees over 40 or 50 who have been “laid off,” terminated, or “restructured” out of a job. The employer then replaces these older workers – presumably higher compensated workers – with younger workers that it can pay less. This is also age discrimination.
How Do I Prove an Age Discrimination in Employment Claim?
Your employer will probably not admit that it terminated you, laid you off, or “restructured” you out of a job on the basis of your age. Most employers are too sophisticated for that, and unlawful discrimination is often implicit, subtle, and nuanced.
But they’ll leave a trail that we can use to prove your claim. In age discrimination claims – more than other types of employment discrimination – we use statistical evidence. We’ll look at your company or your department and examine how many workers have been laid off or terminated over the past, say 5 years. Then we’ll examine how many of those workers were over the age of 40. Oftentimes, employees themselves notice a pattern of discrimination.
When it comes to supposed restructuring, we’ll look at whether it was an actual restructuring and the basis for the restructuring. How long was it planned and what were the reasons? And – in the restructuring – how many older workers were let go compared to everyone else?
We’ll also investigate who replaced you. Even if your actual job wasn’t replaced, we’ll look at who is now filling your responsibilities. If we can show that your employer hired someone younger to fill your position – and possibly those of other older employees that it let go – we’ve got a strong case.
Sometimes, when employers discriminate on the basis of age, they’ll make up and offer a different, non-discriminatory reason for termination. For example, your employer might claim that it terminated you for poor performance, or say that it underwent “restructuring.” In order to win on a discrimination claim, employment lawyers have to prove that the reason offered by the employer is a pretextual reason that is just being said so that your employer can avoid having to say the actual, illegal reason for termination – age discrimination.
We’ve got a couple ways to prove pretext on behalf of employees. First, we try to demonstrate that the reason given by the employer is just factually wrong. So, for example, if your employer claims that it terminated you for poor performance, but actually gave you high performance reviews for a number of years and has no written records of ever giving you discipline or counseling, then we’ve created a fact question for a jury regarding whether the reason given by the employer is the real reason for termination, or just pretext to mask age discrimination.
Or, if your employer says it restructured, but your position was the only one “restructured,” we can show that it didn’t actually restructure but is just making that up to avoid saying that it terminated you on account of your age. Especially when your position is filled by a younger employee, this is a strong path.
Second, we can prove that the reason given by the employer isn’t the real reason for termination because it wasn’t equally applied to similarly situated employees. So, if your employer claims that it terminated you for poor performance, but your peers actually had equal or worse performance reviews than you – or documented performance problems that you didn’t have – than we’ve created a fact issue regarding whether the employer’s stated reason for termination is the actual reason, or just pretext to mask age discrimination.
For a free legal consultation with a age discrimination lawyer serving Minneapolis, call 612-349-2729
How Much is My Age Discrimination Case Worth?
This is absolutely a good question to ask as you make a decision on whether to pursue a case in court or not. Starting an employment case is a big decision and you should know what your potential return is for the investment of your time and energy.
The short answer is that the value of your case depends on a lot of things, like:
- the strength of your case on the merits;
- the amount of damages you’ve suffered;
- whether your employer has the ability to pay a large amount; and
- your tolerance for risk.
We get this question so much that we’ve created a separate, detailed page going through each of these factors, right here.
For employment age discrimination claims, you may be entitled to back pay and front pay damages, emotional distress compensation, treble damages under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, punitive damages under both the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and your attorney fees and costs. You may even be entitled to get your job back.
Minneapolis Age Discrimination Lawyer Near Me 612-349-2729
What’s an Average Settlement for a Age Discrimination Case?
That’s a tough question to answer because there’s really no “average” settlement. The value of an employment age discrimination case depends on the strength of the case; the damages the employee suffered; the ability of the employer to pay a large amount (if the employer is insured, even better); and the employee’s tolerance for risk and willingness to go to trial. Here’s a detailed breakdown of those factors.
But we know that many employees looking for answers right now just want to see some numbers from actual settlements, so here are some numbers.
- We represented a woman, “Julie,” who worked for the same company for over 20 years as an accountant. Julie was 55 years old. Her employer terminated her on account of supposed performance problems and replaced her with another woman in her early 30s, “Sara.” On the same day that Julie was terminated, “Margo” (another employee in her 50s) was also terminated. Julie received a good performance review just a few months before her termination; in fact, she was rated higher than the younger employee selected to replace her. We litigated this case all the way through summary judgment (where the employer asks the Court to dismiss the employee’s case). We beat their motion and the employer then settled for almost $200,000.
- We represented two police officers against the City of Richfield. They were in their 50s and claimed age discrimination in the detective selection process: two officers in their 20s were promoted even though the two older officers had far more experience. The City claimed that the younger officers just performed better in their interviews. Another firm brought us on to this case right before trial so that we could try the case to jury. We did and we won: the jury awarded the officers $125,000 in damages, including $50,000 in punitive damages – the most allowed by the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
Please note that just because these employees received the above results doesn’t mean that’s what your case is worth. These are just examples. Your case value depends on a number of things.
What Should I do if I’ve Been the Victim of Age Discrimination at Work?
First of all, if you’re searching for answers right now after losing your job, we’re very sorry that you’re in this position. We know how tough it is to lose your job, especially when you’ve got family and other financial obligations. It’s especially frustrating and hurtful when the termination is discriminatory.
Second, make sure that take advantage of state benefits designed to help people going through tough times. Apply for unemployment benefits. And, contact COBRA to make sure you and your family are covered for health insurance.
Third, write everything down that happened to you. Write down the date that you were terminated, who terminated you, what they precisely said was the reason for your termination, and who else was present. Write down whether you think the reason your employer gave you was accurate or not, and why. Write down the names of employees that you think may have useful information. Write down the types of documents or emails that you think may have good information about your case. Write down everything – the reason for this is that your memory will probably fade over time and you want to document things while they’re fresh in your mind. If you pursue a lawsuit, your trial likely won’t be for at least 12 to 18 months, so you want to have something that you can refer to – write everything down.
Fourth, immediately send a letter or email request to your employer requesting your personnel file and the reason for your termination. Under Minnesota law, your employer needs to provide it to you. If your employer hasn’t paid you all of your wages or given you your last paycheck, make sure to request those wages in writing also (by letter or email).
Fifth, call us to talk about your case.
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What is the Statute of Limitations for an Age Discrimination Case?
You need to move quickly on these. In Minnesota, you’ve got just one year from the date of the wrongful termination or last discriminatory act to bring a lawsuit or file a claim with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. You’ve only got 300 days from the date of the termination or last discriminatory act to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, if you want to bring federal claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
Contact Our Employment and Age Discrimination Attorneys.
You must act quickly when it comes to employment claims. If you wait, there may be strict statutes of limitation that will bar you from filing any claim at all against your employer. Call today to discuss your case.
First, contact our office and tell us about your situation. You’ll talk with our staff for about 5-10 minutes. They’ll get some basic information about you and your case.
There’s some information that we’ll need when you call. We will want to know who you worked for, what kind of work you did, for how long worked there, how much you earned, if/when you were terminated, the reason given by your employer for any discipline and termination, and why do you think your employer did something unlawful or wrongful. If you have this information handy, it will allow us to proceed more quickly.
We will get back to you shortly – usually within a few hours. If your potential case is a little outside of our wheelhouse, we may refer you to attorneys, agencies, or organizations that we think might be better suited to handle your situation. Our goal is to ensure you get the best and most appropriate help possible for your particular situation. If that’s not us, we’ll try to tell you immediately and point you in the right direction.
If we think that we might be able help you, we’ll set an appointment for you to talk with one of our employment lawyers. We’ll discuss your case, and give you our honest assessment of its strengths, weaknesses, and value. If we then mutually agree that we will represent you, we will talk about the process of moving forward with your case.
When you talk with our employment lawyers, please be sure to have all relevant documents that you have in your possession. For example, that could include: pay-stubs, personnel files, employment handbooks/policies, letters from your employer (including your termination letter), any text messages or emails that you think are important, and any other documents that you think might be helpful.