Government Wins Latest in Series of Age Discrimination Rulings

February 21, 2006 ( - A federal appellate court has given the go-ahead to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to collect monetary assets on behalf of discrimination victims.

The 7 th  US Circuit Court of Appeals made that indication in a ruling last week in a long-running workplace discrimination battle involving the giant international Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin. The EEOC has been pursuing a class action wage discrimination case involving 31 former partners who were forced out in October 1999 on account of their age, and, other partners who were involuntarily retired from Sidley & Austin since 1978 on account of their age, pursuant to a mandatory retirement policy (See EEOC Alleges Partner Age Discrimination at Giant Law Firm ).

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employers with 20 or more employees from making employment decisions affecting employees over 40, including decisions regarding the termination of employment, on the basis of age. The ADEA also prohibits such employers from utilizing policies or rules which require employees over 40 to retire when they reach a particular age.

The latest ruling, written by Circuit Judge Richard Posner, was in response to a Sidley application to appeal from a lower federal court ruling by US District Judge James Zagel of the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, which denied, for a second time a ruling in favor of the firm. In holding that EEOC may obtain monetary relief in the case as well as injunctions, Posner said that the controlling legal authority was the US Supreme Court’s 2002 landmark decision in EEOC v. Waffle House, Inc.  

The ruling by Posner was the fifth significant decision in the history of the case, all of which have been in favor of the EEOC.

The ruling in EEOC v. Sidley Austin, 7th Cir. No. 06-8002, decision below affirmed February 17, 2005, is  here .