What Employers Need to Know About Age Discrimination

This week, we’ve been talking about older job seekers by outlining the benefits of hiring them, as well as providing some great resources for older job seekers looking to restart their career.

Today, though, we’re going to talk about age discrimination.

Age discrimination has become a hot topic as of late. With the rising number of older job seekers making their way back into the workforce, employers should be well-informed when it comes to age discrimination laws.

Below, we’ve taken some key points from a white paper, published by the AARP, on what employers should know about age discrimination.

Here are some of the things you should know:

Who is protected: Employees and job applicants who are 40 or older.

  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects those younger than you probably thought, so be aware of the wide age range that it covers.

Who must comply with the ADEA: Employers with 20 or more employees, employment agencies, the federal government, and labor organizations (i.e. unions) with 25 or more members.

  • Employers under the ADEA may not discriminate against workers in hiring, promotions, wages, or termination of employment and layoffs, meaning:
    • They may not retaliate against an employee or job seeker who complains about age discrimination.
    • Employers also may not implement age-neutral policies that have a significant, disproportionate impact on older workers.
    • Employment agencies serving employers under the ADEA may not refuse or refrain from referring workers.
    • The federal government must ensure that all federal employees and job applicants are free of age discrimination.
    • Labor organizations may not cause an employer to discriminate against any individual or retaliate against them.

Note: every state has its own laws against age discrimination, and in some cases may protect employees younger than age 40, or prohibit age discrimination by employers with fewer than 20 employees. Always check your local laws if you have any questions.

Exceptions to the ADEA: In some cases, the ADEA allows employers to make employment related decisions based on age, such as:

  • Bonafide Occupational Qualification: an employer must prove that an age limit is necessary for the job (e.g. models for teen clothing)
  • Employee Benefit Plans: An employer cannot deny benefits to an employee protected under the ADEA, however, an employer may reduce an employee’s benefit plan if the cost of the benefit increases with the age of the employee, or, as long as the cost of the benefits provided is not less than that of a younger employee.

Not knowing the laws can lead you into a lot of trouble.

By having a better understand of the ADEA, you can save yourself the headache of an investigation, prevent age discrimination, and in the long run, maximize the benefits of a mature workforce. One way the AARP suggests doing that? By abandoning the many assumptions that employers hold about older job seekers and employees–something we’ve mentioned in previous posts.

What are you thoughts on age discrimination and the ADEA? Let us know your thoughts by connection with on our Facebook or Twitter.