The Age Discrimination in Employment Act

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) of 1967 is a federal law that protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on their age. The protection extends to employees and job applicants. The ADEA also prohibits employers from retaliating against those who oppose discriminatory employment practices based on age or who file a charge, testify, participate in an investigation, proceeding or litigation under the ADEA.

The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees. It applies to apprenticeship programs, job notices and advertisements, pre-employment inquiries, benefits and waivers of ADEA rights.

Remedies for ADEA violations include reinstatement, back pay, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees, expert witness fees and costs. The employer will also be required to stop any discriminatory practices and take steps to prevent discrimination in the future.

New York has a similar law (New York Executive [Human Rights] Law). The New York Law protects individuals who are 18 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on their age.

Outdated Views of Older Workers

On June 14, 2017, a public meeting–“The ADEA @ 50 – More Relevant Than Ever” –was held at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) headquarters in Washington, D.C. Experts at the meeting addressed persistent age discrimination and stereotypes about older workers.

Notably, a 2017 AARP study found that nearly 2/3 of workers between the ages of 55 and 64 reported their age as a barrier to getting a job. Further, a 2015 study that used resumes for workers at various ages identified significant discrimination in hiring female applicants and the oldest applicants.

Common Stereotypes and Biases

Many believe that older workers are less productive, less creative, slower mentally, technophobic, inflexible or unwilling to adapt to changes in the work place. Many also believe that older workers have higher rates of absenteeism, are less willing to participate in training programs, costlier to train, expensive and cannot handle the physical demands of a job.

Benefits of Hiring Older Workers

Most older workers are highly skilled, experienced, have a wealth of knowledge, talent and wisdom. They often are reliable, committed, have a strong work ethic, are leaders, organized, patient, responsible, professional and hardworking. They can teach, train and mentor other employees.

Steps Employers Can Take to Avoid Age Discrimination

  1. Become more innovative with recruitment, hiring and retention practices with respect to preventing age bias.

  2. Integrate older workers into the workforce by recognizing their value and matching their skills with work environments.

  3. Adjust the physical demands of a job and/or create flexible work schedules.

  4. Provide sufficient training and technical support.

  5. Do not rely on stereotypes and biases about older workers.

If You Were Discriminated Against:

If you have been subjected to unlawful discrimination, there are federal and state laws that may protect you. Your rights under BOTH laws can be enforced by the New York State Division of Human Rights (“DHR”).

To protect your rights, you must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or DHR. Your deadline to file a charge is 300 days from the date of the event that you want to challenge. You do not need a hire a lawyer to file a charge of discrimination. To contact the EEOC, call (800) 669-4000. To contact the DHR, call (585) 238-8250.

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