Kelley Drye & Warren, a law firm with over 300 attorneys, has agreed to end its policy of requiring partners to give up their equity in the firm once they reach 70 years of age and to pay $574,000 to an attorney who continued to practice at the firm after he turned 70, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced Wednesday.
The EEOC’s lawsuit, Civil Action No. 10-CV-0655 (LTS)(MHD), filed in the Southern District of New York, charged that under Kelley Drye’s former policy, attorneys who wanted to practice after reaching 70 could only do so by giving up all ownership interest in the firm and instead be compensated through discretionary bonuses. This resulted in significant under-compensation of Eugene T. D’Ablemont, who has continued to practice law full-time at the firm since he turned 70 in 2000. Such conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits discrimination based on age, including in compensation.
“There is no reason why attorneys who are capable of continuing to practice at 70 either should be forced to retire or otherwise be dissuaded from continuing to work in their chosen profession just because of their age,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez. “Our strong enforcement of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act is critical to ensuring that workplaces are free from discrimination.”
“As Kelley Drye has recognized by its policy change, it simply does not make business sense to arbitrarily force out attorneys with the skill and energy to continue to practice law at a high level even though they are over 70 years old. I urge other law firms to assess their retirement policies,” said Jeffrey Burstein, EEOC Trial Attorney in the EEOC’s New York District Office.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available at its web site at www.eeoc.gov.