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Employment Law FAQ

What is the ADEA?

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers who are 40 years or older from employment discrimination based on their age. It applies to current employees and job applicants. According to the language of the ADEA, employers are prohibited from considering a person's age for any term, condition or privilege of employment. This includes hiring and firing decisions, promotions, raises, performance reviews, demotions, lay-offs, trainings, benefits and compensation.

This federal act applies to those employers who have 20 or more employees. The employer may be a local or state government, the federal government, a labor organization, an employment agency or a private employer.

Employers are prohibited from participating in certain activities under the ADEA that may lead to discrimination against older workers. For example, employers are prohibited from including age requirements or limits in job postings, unless the employer can prove the age limit is a bona fide condition for the specific job position. Also, employers cannot deny benefits to older workers. However, employers can reduce benefits of employees based on age if the cost of the reduced benefits to older workers is the same cost of benefits for younger workers.

While employers are not barred from asking a prospective employee about his or her age during a job interview, employers should do so with caution. This could have a chilling effect on older job applicants who may be disinclined to apply for the position.

The plaintiff in an ADEA case must be able to prove that the employer treated him or her differently because of his or her age. However, age does not have to be the only factor or even the principle factor in the employer's decision. The plaintiff has to show that age was a motivating factor, which can be difficult to prove. If the employer can show that he or she had a nondiscriminatory reason for the decision, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to prove that the employer's nondiscriminatory reason is nothing more than a pretext, or cover-up, for the discrimination.

Some of the remedies that may be available to a plaintiff bringing a successful ADEA lawsuit include:

  • Back pay
  • Fringe benefits (pension, savings plans, Social Security)
  • Reinstatement of the employee in an acceptable position
  • Future damages (front pay and lost earning capacity)
  • Liquidated damages (if the employer's violation was willful)
  • Prejudgment interest on back pay

As with other federal anti-discrimination laws, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who bring claims under the ADEA, oppose employer policies they believe are discriminatory or participate in any internal proceeding, investigation or legal action regarding age discrimination.

Age discrimination is prohibited by federal law. If you feel you have been the victim of ageism in a hiring, promotion or other employment decision, contact an employment law attorney experienced in this important area of the law today.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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