The Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act Prohibits Age Discrimination
Last Updated on May 1, 2020
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At A Glance
- This Alert Affects
- Workers eligible for an age discrimination case should be over the age of 40 who suffered unfair treatment or discrimination in employment. The employee must have worked at a company with at least 20 employees.
- Age discrimination can lead to job loss, lost wages and unequal pay.
- Additional Details
- The Federal Age Discrimination and Employment Act is used to protect employees aged 40 and older from discrimination in firing, hiring, promotion, pay, and privileges of employment.
- The Federal Age Discrimination Act was established in 1967.
In addition to specific anti-discrimination laws on the state level, the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), protects workers forty and over from unfair treatment or discrimination based on age in the areas of hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, and terms, conditions or privileges of employment. These laws against age discrimination in the workplace are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Note that the ADEA only applies to employers with 20 (twenty) or more employees; this includes federal, state, and local government, employment agencies, labor organizations, etc. In Fiscal Year 2007, EEOC received 19,103 charges of age discrimination. EEOC resolved 16,134 age discrimination charges in FY 2007 and recovered $66.8 million in monetary benefits for charging parties and other aggrieved individuals (not including monetary benefits obtained through litigation).
Under the ADEA, federal claims require potential age discrimination victims to fill out an "opt in" form which declares that they wish to join the lawsuit. Age discrimination victims who do not file this form in order to join the lawsuit, or who fail to do so in a timely manner, lose the right to receive compensation, if there is any.
Age discrimination, like other types of workplace discrimination, is often not obvious, but is rather indicated by subtle signs. One of the most common is when management indicates that the company needs "New Blood," or wants to "revitalize" the organization. One of the most common patterns for age discrimination by a company is to give older employees negative performance reviews (which at first seem like an aberration and is not based on any appreciable difference in the employees work). The employer then proceeds to replace older employees with younger employees, ostensibly based on the negative reviews.
Another important law which protects the rights of older employees is the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (OWBPA), which amended the ADEA to specifically prohibit employers from denying benefits to older employees. This is because Congress recognized that the cost of providing some benefits to older employees is greater than the cost of providing those same benefits to younger employees, which could provide employers with a disincentive to hire older workers. OWBPA also requires employers to provide data to terminated employees about the ages of persons retained and eliminated in a reduction in force (RIF). As RIFs can be carried out in a discriminatory fashion, terminating primarily older employees, this information can be useful in an age discrimination case. OWBPA further requires employers to provide employees with sufficient information and time to consult with an attorney before agreeing to waive potential age claims in exchange for a severance package. It should be noted that once an employee has signed a waiver, it is difficult to bring a civil lawsuit against the employer.
If your employer is engaging in discriminatory practices based on the age of employees and you have been negatively affected as a consequence, then you may be eligible to participate in age discrimination litigation against your employer, to recover for damages.
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