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What is the Age Discrimination In Employment Act?

Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act in 1967. The law protects those age 40 and older from workplace discrimination by their employers. The Act prohibits employers from making hiring, firing, or other decisions based on an employee’s or job applicant’s age to minimize the damaging effects of long-term unemployment on older workers. Congress amended the Act in 1986 to eliminate an age cap for workers aged 70 and older. Congress amended the Act again in 1990 via the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, which prohibits employers from using an employee’s age when determining their benefits. The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act also provides important safeguards for older workers facing severance decisions. Employers asking an employee to waive their right to sue their employer must provide the employee with at least 21 days to review the agreement and an additional 7 days to rescind their agreement.

According to Congress, the Act’s goals are to:

  • promote employment of older persons based on their ability rather than age;
  • prohibit arbitrary age discrimination in employment; and
  • help employees and workers find ways of meeting problems arising from the impact of age on employment.

29 U.S.C. Sec. 621(b).

The Act prohibits employers from:

  • discriminating due to age in hiring practices, awarding or withholding promotions, terminations, and layoffs;
  • using or making statements regarding certain age preferences or limitations;
  • harassing an employee because of their age;
  • denying benefits to employees because of age;
  • implementing a mandatory retirement age, although some exceptions do exist for high-paid executives;
  • limiting, segregating, or classifying an employee based on age;
  • refusing to refer an individual for employment because of age; and
  • setting age limitations for training programs.

The Act applies to employers with more than 20 employees; employment agencies; federal, state, and local government agencies; and labor organizations with at least 25 members. Age discrimination victims can receive compensatory and punitive damages from their employer if reinstatement is not feasible and/or if the employer intentionally broke the law. 29 U.S.C. §§ 623(a)-(m).

How to Pursue an Age Discrimination Claim

When pursuing an age discrimination claim, the first step is to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You must file the charge before you can file a lawsuit, and if possible, you should file the charge within 180 days of the discriminatory action or when you became aware of the discriminatory action. Federal employees, however, must get in contact with an EEOC counselor within 45 days of the discriminatory action. Some states extend the filing deadline to 300 days after the action but still recommend filing within 180 days.

Regardless of the venue, you should file the charge as early as possible to be safe. After you file the charge, the EEOC will notify the employer and investigate the discrimination claim. If the EEOC determines that the age discrimination claim has substance, it will attempt to persuade the employer to remedy the discrimination without legal action. If this is not successful, the EEOC can take legal action on behalf of the age discrimination victim. However, it is extremely rare for the EEOC to do so.

After the EEOC terminates its investigation, it will issue a Notice of Right to Sue, which gives the age discrimination victim permission to file in state or federal court. Age discrimination cases are unique in that you do not have to wait for the Notice of Right to Sue before filing a lawsuit. You can file the lawsuit any time after 60 days from filing the charge with the EEOC and before 90 days after receiving the Notice of Right to Sue.

What Else You Should Know About Age Discrimination

The ADEA contains some important exceptions. Employers can impose age restrictions when there is a bonafide reason to do so. For example, airline pilots are required to retire at age 65. Similarly, air traffic controllers must be hired before their 31st birthday and must retire at age 56. Additionally, the existence of a seniority system may allow an employer to engage in acts that may otherwise be considered discriminatory.

In addition to prohibiting discrimination based on age, federal law also protects employees who oppose discrimination or participate in the EEO process, either by filing a complaint or by serving as a witness in an age discrimination case.

Lastly, while federal law only protects workers age 40 and over, many state and local laws prohibit discrimination against employees of all ages.

We are Here to Help You

While the Age Discrimination in Employment Act offers older employees important protections, it doesn’t stop some employers from discriminating against their workers due to their age. Hoyer Law Group is both equipped and experienced to deal with all kinds of age discrimination cases. If you believe you are a victim of age discrimination, call us today at 888-943-1352 or contact us online.

You can find more information on the EEOC’s website.