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Age Discrimination in Employment

Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 is mainly aimed at prohibiting age based discrimination in employment. A large part of the American population is aging. This aging population is a significant part of the American workforce. However, a key problem is that increasingly the aging workforce has found it difficult to retain employment and find new jobs whenever displaced. This is a major issue before the law and the baby boomer generation. The ADEA is aimed at protecting workers aged 40 or above from any kind of discrimination at their jobs. It had become a common practice in the industry to set age limits regardless of their relevance.

A large number of companies have been following practices that while being beneficial for the employers worked to the disadvantage of the older population. The result was that unemployment grew among the older workers compared to the younger ones. The employment problems being faced by the older workers are grave and their morale declines. The aim of ADEA is also to promote employment of the older workers based on their skills and abilities rather than age. It also aims to help both employers and older employees to find new ways that can help address the problems which arise due to the impact of age on employment.

According to title 29, Chapter 14 section 623, any employer must not refuse to hire or discharge an individual or discriminate against him in any way whether it be in terms of compensation or other conditions or privileges of employment because of his age. Employers should not classify their older workers in a manner that could deprive them of employment opportunities or otherwise affect his status as an employee. The law also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations.

Employment agencies must not fail to refer for employment or in any other way discriminate against an older worker because of his age. Similarly, labor organizations must not try to discriminate against the older workers by excluding them from their membership or by classifying them in manner to limit their employment opportunities. These organizations should not treat the older workers in a way that affects their status because of their old age. Labor organizations should not try to make employers discriminate against the older workers either. The section also provides protection against retaliatory actions from employers, employment agencies and labor organizations. They cannot discriminate against an older worker because his has opposed age based discrimination.

Another important area that is affected by the ADEA is advertising for employment. Employers, employment agencies and labor organizations should not lay advertisements that show a preference, limit, specify or discriminate on the basis of age. Such advertisements that discriminate against the older workers or show a preference for younger people shall or in any other way specify an age limit for employment shall be considered against the ADEA.

However, there are also certain exceptions provided by the ADEA. It also lays down a list of lawful practices where a preference for a certain age group might be considered lawful.

Age as a bonafide occupational qualification:

In conditions where age is a bonafide occupational qualification, it shall not be considered unlawful for an employer to hire people from a younger age group. In case hiring aged people is going to significantly hinder the operation of a particular job, the employers are not required to adhere to the requirements set above. Suppose a work requires intensive physical labor. In such cases where due to the physical intensity of labor involved an employer may not consider it proper to hire people above 45. In such cases, age works as a bonafide occupational qualification.

Laws of foreign workplace: In case of a foreign workplace where the laws of a foreign country apply, the employer may not be legally required to follow the specific rules prescribed by law. The exceptions also apply in case of bonafide seniority systems and bonafide employee benefit plans. Employment problems of the aging workforce are real and require being addressed. Discrimination against them is a reality. ADEA has tried to address such problems that may adversely affect the morale and status of the elderly workforce.

Employers and employment agencies and even labor organizations must refrain from such practices that differentiate against the elderly population and affect its motivation or employment status.  Discrimination whether related to payment or other employment privileges is illegal. Moreover companies cannot take any retaliatory action against the people that complain about such discriminatory practices. However, in cases where age is a bonafide requirement for the job, such differentiation might not be considered against the law. Still, companies before trying to use it as an excuse must be careful if age really hinders performance in a particular area.