In June 2005, the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied the law firm’s request to dismiss an age discrimination lawsuit brought against it by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC alleged Sidley Austin violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) by demoting a group of partners to “senior counsel” or “counsel” status in the fall of 1999 and by maintaining a mandatory retirement age for partners (See Judge Clears Path for Law Firm Age Discrimination Suit ).
The 7 th US Circuit Court of Appeals, in February 2006, upheld the district court ruling and allowed for the EEOC to seek monetary relief on behalf of the victims as well as injunctions (See Government Wins Latest in Series of Age Discrimination Rulings ). The 7 th Circuit based its opinion on the Supreme Court’s 2002 ruling in EEOC v. Waffle House, Inc.
Sidley Austin had argued that the agency had no authority to seek monetary damages, but the 7 th Circuit said the prior Supreme Court ruling gave the EEOC the right to seek damages separate from the individual victims’ rights.