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What Employees Should Know About the ADEA and its Protections


There are many anti-discrimination laws that provide various protections based on the category of employee to whom it applies. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is one such law that prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals who are 40 years of age and older if that discrimination is based on their age. Like Title VII and others, the ADEA prohibits discrimination in all aspects of employment. That includes hiring, firing, wages, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, trainings, fringe benefits, and any other terms or conditions of employment. So, what else should an employee know about the ADEA and how it protects employees to which it applies?

Are All Employers and Employees Covered by the ADEA?

The ADEA applies to all private employers that have 20 or more employees. The ADEA is a federal law and there are some states that have enacted similar laws that apply to employers with fewer employees. If you are not sure about the laws in your state, ask an employment discrimination attorney. Alabama does have the Alabama Age Discrimination in Employment Act (AADEA), which applies to employers that have 20 or more employees. However, unlike many other states, Alabama does not have a general anti-discrimination statute.

The ADEA protects both job applicants and employees who are 40 years of age and older. As with the number of employees an employer must have to be covered, some states can pass laws that will protect younger workers.

Can a Potential Employer Ask My Age?

Employers should not ask an applicant their age during the hiring process, which includes asking the question on an application or during an interview. When there are minimum age requirements, employers can ask only whether the applicant meets the minimum requirements. That does not require asking an applicant for their specific age.

Does the ADEA Protect Against Actions that Indirectly Discriminate?

When an employer’s actions result in discrimination against certain protected groups of people, like employees who are 40 years old or older, that is still considered discrimination. Disparate impact refers to situations where an employment practice is not based on the specific intent to discriminate against one individual but instead has a disproportionate impact on a specific protected group of employees. That “disparate impact” is just as unlawful as disparate treatment of an individual.

What if My Employer Lays Off All of the Older Employees?

A common type of age discrimination case arises when employers implement extensive layoffs or reductions-in-force that include a large number of older employees. However, these types of cases can be very difficult to prove because it appears that the employer has a legitimate reason for terminating the employees. The reality is that some employers use layoffs to hide their true intentions – creating a younger workforce.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!

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