Age discrimination often makes it difficult for older people to find and keep jobs. The U.S. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) makes it unlawful to discriminate against Americans ages 40 and older when it comes to hiring, firing, layoffs, promotions, salary, assignments, benefits and training. Understanding age discrimination facts can help you determine if you are a victim.
Employers can’t state that older workers won’t be hired when posting employment advertisements. Age limits can only be included in an advertisement if age is a legitimate qualification, which is rarely the case. Employers usually avoid asking age-related questions, preferring to ask only if a candidate is 18 or over. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) advises that the ADEA doesn’t specifically prohibit an employer from asking a candidate’s age, but notes that it will closely examine such requests to ensure that they were made for lawful purposes.
Employers aren’t permitted to limit employment and advancement opportunities by setting an age limit for a position. Some employers try to circumvent this requirement by noting that the position is only available to employees who have a certain range of experience. Often, this type of requirement excludes older people who have far more experience than desired. The AARP notes that policies or practices that have a significantly adverse impact on older employees are unlawful unless the employer proves that the practices are based on a reasonable factor other than age. Employers also are not permitted to terminate employees due to age or force them to retire.
Employers can’t legally offer certain benefits to younger employees and not offer them to older employees. In some cases, benefits may be extended to all employees, but older employees might receive a reduced benefit as compared to younger employees. Since life insurance premiums rise with age, younger employees might receive a higher company-paid life insurance benefit than older employees. This is legal as long as the company spends the same amount to purchase insurance for both older and younger employees.
The EEOC investigates claims of age discrimination involving companies with 20 or more employees. If your company has fewer than 20 employees, you might be able to file a complaint with your state government. Each state has its own limits regarding company size when handling discrimination complaints. You must file your complaint within 180 days of the incident. If a state agency enforces state age-discrimination laws, the filing deadline is extended to 300 days. After you file a complaint with the EEOC, it will contact your employer and investigate the charge. If the EEOC believes that your complaint is justified, it will work with your employer to correct the situation.