Age bias is a serious form of discrimination. Many older workers are subjected to age bias when looking for a job and while employed. However, federal law prohibits age bias in the workplace.
Employees can allege intentional age discrimination, where employers singled out the employees for adverse treatment because of the employee’s age.
Employees can also bring unintentional age discrimination claims, where a neutral rule or policy actually results in older employees suffering more than younger employees. Policies or rules which often result in unintentional age discrimination claims include cutting benefits, dress codes designed to make employees look younger, and company downsizing.
Finally, employees can also allege age harassment in the form of hostile work environment claims.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was passed by Congress in 1967. This law protects people who are 40 years of age or older from workplace discrimination based on age. Under the ADEA, it is illegal to discriminate against older workers when hiring or firing employees. Employers also must not discriminate when assigning benefits, job assignments, or training.
The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) was passed by Congress in 1990. The OWBPA makes it illegal for employers to use age when considering an employee's benefits or retirement. This law typically results in employers giving benefits to younger and older employees equally. Like the ADEA, the OWBPA is only applicable to employees age 40 or over.
The ADEA is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In 2007, the EEOC received over 19,000 complaints concerning age bias. After an initial investigation, the EEOC found enough evidence to proceed with roughly half of these claims, and resolved about 6,000 claims. The EEOC recovered over $66 million through mediation and settlements in 2007. This does not include money recovered through lawsuits filed by the EEOC or the employees.
Employers can use these defenses against an age bias claim:
In addition to the ADEA, many states have passed their own age bias laws. Some of these state laws offer more protections than the federal law. For example, federal law puts damage caps on discrimination cases, limiting the amount of money that an employee can collect from a discrimination case, even if the employee wins. Many states do not have such caps on their age bias laws.
If you believe you are the victim of age bias, your first step should be to consult with an employment attorney to determine your best course of action. You can also send a complaint to the EEOC to determine if you can bring your claim to federal court.
Last Modified: 05-09-2013 10:37 AM PDTLaw Library Disclaimer
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