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US accuses prominent law firm of age discrimination

[JURIST] The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC official website] filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Chicago-based Sidley Austin Brown & Wood [law firm website], for alleged discrimination against the firm's older lawyers. The suit, which could cost the firm millions of dollars, stems from a 1999 decision to demote 31 of the firm's lawyers from "partner" status, most of whom were over 50 years old. In an attempt to create opportunities for young lawyers, the firm also lowered its mandatory retirement age from 65 to 60. Subpoenas were issued during the 1999 investigation and a 2002 US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals opinion [PDF text] rejected the firm's argument that partners are not protected as "employees." The EEOC suit seeks to reinstate the demoted partners, change the mandatory retirement policy, and provide damages for those injured. Read the EOC press release. The Chicago Sun-Times has more.

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