A pilot of advanced years recently filed suit in federal court in New Orleans, seeking damages for wrongful termination. In what should make for an interesting employment law case, the 72-year-old pilot has raised claims under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and seeks damages including lost wages, loss of reputation and emotional distress along with attorney fees and his costs of bringing the action.

The veteran aviator worked for more than six years as a pilot for Southern Tire Mart. According to his complaint, the company acquired a new airplane in late 2011 and required all of its pilots to attend a training course for the new aircraft. The pilot arranged to attend the training course, but was informed just a day beforehand that he had been reclassified as a backup pilot and would not be attending the training.

Later the pilot was informed that his employment would be terminated entirely at the end of 2011. He believes that he was replaced by a pilot under 40 years of age.

The pending employment litigation may require skillful legal counsel on both sides. As a general rule, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits any type of adverse employment action based solely upon a person’s age. However, the act does not prohibit appropriate employment actions when age is a legitimate qualification for a particular occupation or when a discriminatory employment action is based on reasonable factors other than age.

Although the pilot asserts that his termination and replacement are based exclusively on his age, the employer may well present evidence of other factors, such as eyesight, reaction time or mental acuity, that it could present reasonable factors justifying its decision. Workplace discrimination cases often turn upon the weight of factual details. It takes an experienced employment law professional to identify the relevant facts and present them effectively in court.

Source: The Louisiana Record, “72-year-old pilot files age discrimination lawsuit after losing job,” Michelle Keahey, Dec. 27, 2012