Age Discrimination Act: FAQs for Small Business Owners
by NicoleD, Former Moderator
- Created: March 23, 2010, 10:32 pm
- Updated: February 10, 2011, 3:46 pm
What is the ADEA?
Job applicants and employees who are over the age of 40 are protected from age-based employment discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The ADEA makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a worker because of their age in typical conditions of employment, like interviewing, hiring, compensating, disciplining, terminating, or promoting.
While the ADEA intends to prevent employers from discriminating against older workers in favor of those under 40, it also prohibits discrimination between older workers. This means that an employer cannot hire Frank, 47, over Eric, 59, because Frank is younger.
Employees under the age of 40 cannot claim age discrimination under the ADEA.
An employer may request that worker waive his/her rights or claims under the ADEA, either in the settlement of a claim, or in connection with an exit incentive program or other employment termination program. For more details on ADEA waivers, see the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website.
Am I allowed to ask prospective employees their age?
Under the ADEA, an employer is entitled to ask an applicant's age or date of birth, but to avoid possible intent to discriminate, requests for age information should be made for lawful, relevant business purposes.
Aren't older employees more expensive to employ? What are the rules on benefits and retirement obligations?
The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (OWBPA), a supplement to the ADEA, specifically prohibits employers from denying benefits to older employees. Employers cannot reduce or limit health and life insurance or stop pension accrual of older employees based on the employee's age. The OWBPA also prevents employers from targeting older workers when downsizing or offering early-retirement packages.
Are age discrimination laws the same throughout the US?
The ADEA is a federal law, however many states also prohibit age discrimination. Some states merely reflect the ADEA, while others may protect a broader age range or apply to employers with fewer than 20 employees. Employers can contact their state EEOC branch for local fair employment requirements.
What should I do if I am cited for age discrimination?
The EEOC will notify an employer within 10 days of receiving a charge. Notification normally includes a copy of the charge briefly identifying the charging party, the basis and issue(s) of the allegation, and the date(s) of the alleged discrimination. To learn more about charges filed against your business, see the EEOC's guide on discrimination investigations.
It is unlawful for employers to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on age or for filing an age discrimination charge under the ADEA.
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