Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

What is the ADEA?

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C.  §§ 621-634, et seq. (1967), protects older workers from discrimination in the workplace.  Discrimination has historically been based on “inaccurate and stigmatizing stereotypes“or prejudices concerning older workers’ competence, productivity, and efficiency in the workplace. Section 4(a)(1) of the Act states: it is unlawful for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions ,or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s age.”

Who is protected by the ADEA?

Individuals age 40 and older. No provisions are made for claims of “reverse age discrimination” for younger employees.

Exceptions to the ADEA:

  • Any person elected to state or local public office or any person chosen by the elected official to be a part of his/her personal staff, including advisers
  • Firefighters and law enforcement officers
  • Independent contractors
  • Any position where an employer can show that age is a “bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of a particular business,” or BFOQ. The employer must demonstrate that the person(s) in question cannot safely or efficiently perform their job due to being over forty years of age.

Is my employer covered under the Act?

Most public and private employers with 20 or more employees are covered under the ADEA, as well as unions with more than 25 members and employment agencies.

How do is age discrimination proven under the ADEA?

1.    Demonstrate that you are an employee covered under the Act.

2.    Demonstrate that you were fired or suffered other adverse/discriminatory employment action by your employer (who is covered under the Act).

3.    Demonstrate that age was the determining factor in the decision to terminate (“but for” age, you would not have been terminated).

A claim needs to be filed with the EEOC within 180 days of the alleged unlawful act. Employees filing charges with the EEOC for age discrimination or employees complaining directly to their employer about age discrimination are protected from retaliation under the ADEA’s Anti-Retaliation Provision.