You may already know that the ADEA or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects both employees and applicants who are 40 years of age or older from being discriminated against in the workplace because of their age. All employers who have 20 or more employees are required to comply with the ADEA, including state and local governments, employment agencies, labor organizations, and the federal government.
General Prohibitions of the ADEA
The ADEA makes it illegal to discriminate against employees because of their age when it comes to the various terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. As most people recognize, adverse employment actions include hiring, termination, promotions, layoffs, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training. Harassment is also illegal. Like nearly all other anti-discrimination statutes, retaliating against an employee for opposing unlawful employment practices is likewise illegal.
Other Lesser Known Forms of Age Discrimination in the Workplace
The ADEA also protects older employees from discrimination that can occur in a few different ways that may not be as well-recognized. Some examples include advertisements and job notices, apprenticeships, pre-employment inquiries, and job benefits.
Advertisements and Job Notices
Preferences, limitations, or specifications listed in advertisements or job notices that involve an applicant’s age are unlawful in a general sense. However, there may be a lawful exception when the employer can demonstrate that age is a "bona fide occupational qualification" (BFOQ), making it reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the employer’s business.
Age limitations placed on apprenticeship programs are only valid when they comply with specific exceptions under the ADEA or approved by the EEOC. Otherwise, it is illegal to discriminate against someone in selecting them for an apprenticeship or joint labor-management apprenticeship program based on their age.
Pre-Employment Inquiries Regarding Applicants
While the ADEA does not explicitly prohibit employers from asking an applicant how old he is or what her date of birth is, those questions often deter older workers from applying for jobs. An employer can only request age-related information for a legal purpose after the employee has been hired.
When the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (OWBPA) was passed, it amended the ADEA to add the specific prohibition that older employees cannot be denied benefits offered to all other employees. Many employers are reluctant to provide the same benefits to older workers because it comes at a greater cost to them. This fact can also be the reason employers are reluctant to hire older employees at all. However, employers are allowed to coordinate health benefit plans for retirees with their eligibility for Medicare or some other comparable state-sponsored benefits.
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!