Over the past few decades, age discrimination in the workplace has received a lot of attention. Age discrimination means treating an applicant or an employee in a less favorable way because of their age. Some interesting statistics are that in 2013 more than 21,000 complaints for age discrimination were filed, and that 64% of workers say that they have either seen or experienced some form of age discrimination in the workplace. To most employers it may seem logical to hire a younger employee over an older one with the idea that the younger employee is more likely to stay with the company longer. There is a problem with this, since basing a hiring decision on age is illegal in the United States. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) only protects people who are 40 years of age or older, but some states do have laws that protect younger workers from being discriminated for their age. The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment; this includes hiring, paying, firing, promoting, training, laying off, providing benefits, etc.
Employers Covered by the Law
The ADEA applies to employers who have 20 or more employees. This includes state and local governments, employment agencies, the federal government, and labor unions, but it does not apply to independent contractors or elected officials.
ADEA makes it unlawful to include age preferences or limitations in job ads, with the rare exception where the employer has reasonable belief that a worker over a certain age is incapable of performing the job safely or when it is highly impracticable to assess each worker individually.
ADEA prohibits employers from forcing their employees to take early retirement.
ADEA prevents the discrimination of older employees when a company is downsizing.
Like mentioned before, ADEA prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of age at any stage of the employment process.
Employers cannot reduce health or life insurance benefits for older employees.
Pursuing a Claim
Employees have the right to pursue a claim if they feel that they are being discriminated due to their age, as this can have effects on their financial security. It is important to keep in mind that pursuing a claim can be emotionally and financially draining for your employees, and it is a very hard case to win. Before filing a claim employees may choose to negotiate with their employer; so try to be mindful and understand where they are coming from.