Law firm to pay $27.5-million settlement

Oct. 6, 2007 at 8:14 AM

CHICAGO, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- Legal giant Sidley Austin's decision to pay $27.5 million in an age discrimination case has set important precedent, says a U.S. employment commission.

"The demographic changes in America assure that we will see more opportunities for age discrimination to occur," said Ronald S. Cooper, general counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Therefore, it is increasingly important all employers understand older workers are protected under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Cooper said.

Chicago-based Sidley Austin Friday agreed to pay $27.5 million to 32 former partners over the age of 40 who had their pay cut and then were told to leave the firm, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

The case was closely watched because of a widely held belief in the legal profession that firm partners are "employers" and therefore not covered by federal anti-discrimination laws, the Times reported.

"Anyone who is in a position where they can be forced out because of age should be considered an employee," said Catherine Fisk, a Duke University law professor and employment law specialist.

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