One of the protected classes identified in federal anti-discrimination laws, alongside race, sex and religion, is age. Younger workers may not be as aware of age discrimination as a problem in the workplace, but many older workers can tell stories about their experiences. A recent article in The Washington Post highlights the issue.
Anti-discrimination laws, according to many, have not effectively solved the problem of age discrimination. There are probably various reasons for this, but part of the problem is likely that proving an employer chose to hire a younger worker because he or she was younger is not easy. Proving discrimination of any kind can be a challenge, but age discrimination is particularly challenging since employers can so easily cover it up.
Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, employers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals who are 40 years or older, either in hiring or employment. The law applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including state and local governments, employment agencies and labor organizations and the federal government.
The ADEA generally prohibits employers from making reference in job notices or advertisements to age preferences, limitations, or specifications. One exception would be situations where age is a “bona fide occupational qualification” which is reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business. Employers are not prohibited from asking about a job applicant’s age or date of birth, but such inquiries can potentially serve as evidence of discriminatory intent.
We’ll say more about this in our next post, as well as the importance of working with an experienced attorney in dealing age discrimination.