The EEOC announced last month that it was filing suit against Kelley Drye & Warren, an international law firm with its primary office in New York City, for paying its 70 year old+ lawyers much less than their younger counterparts.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Kelley Drye attorneys who practiced law after turning 70 years of age received dramatically reduced compensation compared to similarly productive younger attorneys solely because of their age. The EEOC further charged that Kelley Drye unlawfully retaliated against Eugene T. D’Ablemont, an attorney who has practiced law at the firm for over 40 years, by further reducing his compensation after he complained about this discriminatory policy and filed a charge with the EEOC.

This alleged conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits age-based employment discrimination against those aged 40 and older, and which also bars employers from retaliating against those who complain about such unlawful practices. The EEOC filed suit only after attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement.

In 2005 the EEOC brought suit against Sidley & Austin for a discriminatory mandatory retirement policy.  In that case, Sidley required all partners over a certain age to cease working in order to make room for the younger generation. Sidley tried to defend its actions by claiming that its partners were not “employees” within the meaning of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. That argument did not fly with the EEOC and that case, after protracted litigation, ended up settling for $27.5 million.