Claim Age Discrimination for Apprenticeship Programs

Both federal law and the laws of most states prohibit age discrimination in employment, including apprenticeship programs (unless the program falls into specific exemptions). This means employers cannot discriminate against people over 40 years of age. Federal age discrimination laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). To claim age discrimination for apprenticeship programs, you need to gather information and evidence and submit it to the EEOC by filing a charge. If the EEOC is unable to resolve the situation to your satisfaction, you may be able to file a federal lawsuit against the employer.[1]


Building Your Case

  1. Take detailed notes. Specific, detailed facts about incidents that constitute discriminatory policies or behavior are vital to any discrimination claim. Keep a journal and write down as much as you can remember about any discriminatory incident, as soon as possible after it happens.[2][3]
    • The easiest way to keep a journal is to buy a cheap composition notebook from a discount store.
    • Include your name and contact information, as well as the name and contact information for your employer.
    • Put the date you started the journal on the front cover, and date each of your entries.
    • Write a factual account of each incident, including any time you talk to anyone and obtain new information. Attach documents if you have written correspondence with anyone at your employer.
    • Sign and date each of your entries to maintain the legal record. You may even want to get a witness for each of your entries (this can be a friend or sympathetic co-worker).
  2. Talk to other employees. If you've experienced age discrimination from an employer, it's likely that you're not alone. Talking to other employees – particularly those who are around your age – can uncover additional evidence of age discrimination that you can use in your claim.[4][5]
    • For example, if you believe you were turned down for an apprenticeship program because of your age (and you're over 40), talk to other employees close to your age who also applied to the program.
    • If any other employees indicate that they believe they have been discriminated against, tell them that you are going to file an EEOC charge, and ask if they would be willing to speak with the EEOC agent about their experiences.
    • Write down the name and contact information of any fellow employee who indicates they would be willing to cooperate with your EEOC charge.
  3. Consider consulting an attorney. An experienced employment law attorney who focuses on discrimination can help you build your case. An attorney's assistance may be invaluable in these early stages because they know what information you'll need to present a strong claim.[6]
    • Employment law attorneys typically offer a free initial consultation, so it won't hurt to at least talk to someone and get a professional analysis of your case.
    • If you don't know where to start when looking for an attorney, try the searchable directory on your state or local bar association's website. Typically you can limit your search to attorneys who practice employment law or discrimination law.
    • Generally it's a good idea, especially if you're planning on hiring an attorney at this stage, to interview at least three or four attorneys before you make your final choice.
    • Keep in mind that if your claim is successful, you usually are entitled to recover reasonable attorney's fees as well.
  4. Gather information about the employer. To file a state or federal claim, you'll need specific information about the employer such as the number of employees so that you can show the employer is covered by anti-discrimination laws.[7]
    • Federal law only applies to employers who have at least 20 employees. If your employer has fewer than 20 employees, your state law may still cover your situation.
    • You also want to gather specific information about your employer, including the company's legal name, address, and phone number.
    • If this information isn't readily available at your workplace, you may be able to find it on your company's website.

Filing an EEOC Charge

  1. Visit the EEOC website. On the EEOC website, you can learn more about age discrimination laws and use an online assessment tool which will let you know if you're eligible to file a discrimination charge with the EEOC.[8]
    • The online assessment tool is not the same as filing a charge, and using it won't submit ay information to the EEOC. It merely tells you whether you meet the basic qualifications to file a charge with the EEOC.
    • You also can find additional information about age discrimination on the EEOC website, including the types of actions and policies that are prohibited under federal law.
  2. Fill out the intake questionnaire form. To initiate a discrimination charge with the EEOC, you must complete a uniform intake questionnaire, which you can download from the EEOC website.[9]
    • You also have the option of calling the EEOC toll-free at 1-800-669-4000 and starting the process over the phone.
    • The intake questionnaire includes questions about you and your employer. It also provides space for you to write a detailed description of the discrimination you've experienced.
    • Use as many factual details as you can, following the notes you took in your journal. Include names where appropriate.
    • You also want to include detailed information about the apprenticeship program itself, including the type of work involved.
  3. Submit your form to the nearest field office. Once you've completed your intake questionnaire, make a copy for your personal records then take the original to the nearest field office so it can be reviewed by an EEOC agent..[10][11]
    • Keep in mind that you only have 180 days from the date the first instance of discrimination took place to file your charge.
    • That deadline is extended to 300 days if you file a charge with your state agency first.
    • The EEOC has 53 field offices throughout the United States, and recommends that you bring your intake questionnaire in person if you live within {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}} of the nearest field office.
    • If you take your questionnaire in person, you get the benefit of being able to talk to an EEOC agent right away.
    • However, if you're unable to make the trip, you can always mail your questionnaire. Expect to hear from an EEOC agent within 30 days.
  4. Cooperate with the EEOC investigation. Once your intake questionnaire is processed, an agent will send information about your charge to the employer for a response. Based on the employer's response, the agent will then investigate the charge.[12]
    • You won't get a copy of the employer's written response, but the EEOC agent may contact you with questions based on what the employer said.
    • If you didn't include this information on your questionnaire, make sure you provide the EEOC agent with the names and contact information of any co-workers who told you they'd also experienced discrimination and agreed to be contacted regarding your charge.
  5. Attempt mediation. Often the EEOC agent will ask you and the employer to agree to mediate the discrimination claim in the hopes of finding a mutually agreeable resolution. Since mediation is voluntary, the process only happens if both you and the employer consent.[13][14]
    • Keep in mind that since mediation is a voluntary process, there's no requirement that you accept any offer made by the employer if you don't think it's good enough.
    • The mediator will attempt to facilitate a negotiation between you and the employer that will ultimately lead to a compromise, but the entire process is non-adversarial and non-confrontational.
    • A compromise reached in mediation need not involve money. For example, if you were denied entry into the apprenticeship program because of your age, it may be that all you really want is the opportunity to participate in the program.
    • If you are able to resolve the problem through mediation, the mediator will draw up a binding written agreement. Typically this agreement must be approved by the EEOC.

Heading to Court

  1. Receive a right-to-sue letter. If the EEOC is unable to resolve your discrimination claim, you'll receive a letter giving you the right to sue the employer for discrimination in federal court. However, unlike other types of employment discrimination, you don't technically need to receive a right-to-sue letter to sue for age discrimination.[15][16]
    • For age discrimination, you can file your lawsuit at any time, as long as 60 days have passed from the date you filed your charge. You don't even have to wait for the EEOC to complete its investigation.
    • However, due to the time-consuming and expensive nature of federal litigation, it may be in your best interests to wait and see what the EEOC can accomplish before you decide to file a lawsuit.
    • If you wait until you receive a right-to-sue letter, keep in mind that you only have 90 days from the date you receive that letter to file your lawsuit.
  2. Hire an attorney. Even if you didn't hire an attorney earlier in the process, an employment law attorney with experience in discrimination law is essential if you plan to file a federal lawsuit. Federal court rules are complicated, and discrimination cases are notoriously difficult.[17]
    • Keep in mind that if you don't hire an attorney, you'll be expected to understand and apply the federal procedure and evidence rules just as an attorney would, and a mistake could result in your case being dismissed.
    • You can include reasonable attorney's fees in your demand for damages, as well as the costs of filing the lawsuit. Some employment law attorneys will work on contingency.
    • You also may be able to find discrimination attorneys who are willing to take your case for free or at a tremendously reduced rate by checking with legal services offices or nonprofit organizations.
  3. File your complaint. The complaint is a court document that initiates your lawsuit. In it, you identify yourself and the employer, and list factual allegations that add up to a violation of federal anti-discrimination laws.[18][19]
    • Your complaint also will list your demands. Typically you'll be seeking monetary damages, but in cases involving age discrimination in apprenticeship programs, you also may be seeking non-monetary damages including the opportunity to participate in the program.
    • Assuming you've hired an attorney, he or she will take care of filing your complaint, which typically is done electronically in federal court. The complaint must be accompanied by a $400 filing fee, which will be added to your court costs for your lawsuit.
    • Once filed, your complaint must be served on the employer. This typically is done either by having a U.S. marshal hand-deliver the complaint or by mailing it using certified mail with returned receipt requested.
  4. Receive the employer's response. Once the employer is served with your complaint, they have a limited period of time to file a written response. This response typically includes an answer, and may include a motion to dismiss.[20]
    • If the employer files a motion to dismiss in response to your complaint, there typically will be a hearing on that motion before litigation can proceed.
    • During that hearing, you must be able to prove that there is a genuine issue of fact as to whether the employer engaged in unlawful age discrimination.
    • The employer also may file a written answer. Typically this answer will consist of denials of most, if not all, of your allegations, and may include several affirmative defenses.
    • An affirmative defense, in the discrimination context, basically means that the employer is arguing there was a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the actions that were taken.
    • The employer also might argue that although age discrimination took place, it was for a legitimate reason related to the job requirements.
  5. Participate in discovery. Through the discovery process, you (through your attorney) and the employer will exchange information and evidence relevant to your claims of age discrimination. The information you gather through discovery can help you plan your case.[21][22]
    • Typically the employer will want to depose you. A deposition is a live interview in which the employer's attorney asks you questions about the case which you must answer under oath.
    • A court reporter will be on hand at the deposition and will produce a written transcript of the entire interview.
    • You also will have written discovery, including interrogatories and requests for production. Interrogatories are written questions that must be answered in writing under oath.
    • Requests for production can be helpful for your case, because you can request the employer to produce employment records as well as any written policy documents related to the discriminatory actions you've alleged.
  6. Consider any settlement offers. You can settle your case at any time before or even during trial. Because fighting a discrimination lawsuit is a time-consuming and expensive endeavor, you should expect multiple settlement offers at various stages of litigation.[23]s Step 15.jpg|center]]
    • For example, if the employer filed a motion to dismiss, you should expect a settlement offer soon after the court denies that motion.
    • Even if you attempted mediation through the EEOC, you also may want to try it again as you build your case, particularly after discovery.
    • If the employer makes a direct settlement offer, your attorney will advise you on whether you should accept it, refuse it, or make a counter-offer. However, keep in mind the ultimate decision is yours and yours alone.
    • The employer may be unwilling to settle, or may continuously send offers that don't come close to meeting your demands. In that situation, you may have no other option than to work with your attorney to prepare for trial.