In-House Counsel

Judge Rules In-House Chief Patent Counsel Is Protected by Age Bias Law

A federal judge has ruled that the forced retirement of a company’s in-house chief patent counsel violated the law barring age discrimination because the lawyer did not qualify as an executive who is exempted from protection.

U.S. District Judge Vanessa Bryant of Connecticut ruled Aug. 27 in the case of Robert Raymond, chief patent counsel and vice president for intellectual property at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, the National Law Journal reports.

Bryant said Raymond reported no higher than to the general counsel and performed the kind of function done by an employee, the story says. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act allows companies to require retirement at age 65 for employees who are bona fide executives or in high policymaking positions for at least two years.

Michael Starr, a labor and employment partner in the New York office of Holland & Knight, said in-house lawyers providing legal advice are protected from age discrimination. “It’s hard to imagine a lawyer who is below the general counsel qualifying for mandatory retirement,” he told the publication. Occasionally, a deputy general counsel might qualify, he said.

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