The Age Discrimination in Employment Act passed in 1967 ended a lot of woes for employees who often felt the doors close on their careers and room for advancement after the age of 40. The law, however, is not always fully understood by employees or employees.
While the Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits basing hiring, firing or layoff decisions based on age, it does not give employees age 40 or over free reign to do as they please. Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, employers are still able to base decisions on performance, abilities and skills. The act is designed to protect employees from unwarranted decisions. It is not meant to punish employers or impede their abilities to see business get done.
Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, employers are prohibited from:
• Discriminating in regard to hiring, firing, promotion, pay, benefits, assignments, training opportunities and even layoffs in regard to age.
• From refusing equal benefits to employees because of age, unless a reduced package for older employees costs the same as the benefits offered to younger workers. (This is a tricky loophole in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act that many employers do not choose to exercise.)
• Taking retaliatory action against an employee who files a claim of age discrimination or takes part in an investigation into the claim of another.
While the Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies to all employers with 20 or more employees, there are a few exceptions to the law. There are certain circumstances where it is deemed lawful to hire, fire and promote based on age. Under these circumstances, an employer must be able to approve a “bona fide” occupational qualification. This loophole tends to come into play within career fields that are extremely physical in nature.
Although the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects employees and prohibits employers from taking certain actions, workers age 40 or over must still prove their mettle for employment. Employers still retain the rights to dismiss with just cause as long as age does not play a role in the decision.
Workers, who feel they have been the victim of an Age Discrimination in Employment Act violation, have several options at their disposal. They can file claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or hire an attorney to do so. Claims are generally handled by local level offices within most states.
Following the Age Discrimination in Employment Act is not a difficult undertaking for an employer. If policies, procedures and practices spell out decision-making based on abilities and not age or other discriminatory factors, an employer should be free and clear.