The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The ADEA's protections apply to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment -- including, but not limited to, hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training.
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on age or for filing an age discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADEA.
The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.In California, virtually every employer (regardless of size) must comply under similar regulations for the Fair Employment & Housing Act.
When the Supreme Court hears cases, more and more workers become aware of this issue, which will lead to additional claims by 'older' workers.
In Fiscal Year 2006, EEOC received 16,548 charges of age discrimination. EEOC resolved 14,146 age discrimination charges in FY 2006 and recovered $51.5 million in monetary benefits for charging parties and other aggrieved individuals (not including monetary benefits obtained through litigation).
Michael Phelan, a personal injury attorney in Virginia, notes also that "in the current recessionary climate, there is an uptick of companies being accused of using illegal age factors in trying to reduce costs".
What to Do:
- Review your policies immediately.
- Make sure that no possible discrimination is taking place in your hiring and employment practices.
- Get a human resources consultant or labor attorney to audit these procedures.
- If you are considering a layoff or reduction-in-force program, make sure you and your counsel are familiar with the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act.