Unemployment Jumps to 9.4 Percent, Highest Level Since August, 1983

Letton said that at the time of Maticic's dismissal, that Florida store had 181 part-time and full-time employees. (She said the majority were full time, which Whole Foods considers anybody who works 30 hours or more a week.)

Of those 181 workers, 14 were between the ages of 60 and 74, 32 were between 50 and 59 and 46 were between 40 and 49. That means that 45 percent of the workforce at that one store was over the age of 40.

Spike in Jobless Rate and Employment Complaints

"The numbers speak for themselves," she said. "We don't discriminate based on age. How could we?"

While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says it saw a spike in all types of complaints, charges based on age and retaliation saw the largest annual increases, while allegations based on race and sex continued as the most-frequently filed charges.

The economy appears to be a major reason but the EEOC also says it could be from shifting workforce demographics as well as a greater awareness by employees of the law and the commission itself doing a better job of processing complaints.

Janice Goodman, a New York labor lawyer, said she is seeing a lot of clients because of the layoffs.

"A very large percentage of those are older workers," Goodman said. "Proof of discriminatory treatment is more difficult now because when you have a 1,000 people laid off -- rather than one, two or five -- showing that the reason is age is very difficult."

Older workers have more of an incentive to sue, Goodman said, because they might be just a year or two short of getting their full pensions.

"That is probably a major impetus," she said. "That could be some substantial loss to them."

These days, Goodman said, companies have been harder to deal with after a firing. In the past, they were likely to settle the case for an enhancement of the severance package and the granting of a full pension.

"Companies, to date, are less receptive to resolving these issues with some sort of sweetening of the pie," she said. "I was told bluntly that if you want it, you'll have to go sue us, we're just not making deals any longer."

Additional reporting by ABC News' Susan Donaldson James.

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