There is a misconception that younger workers are more likely to adapt to newer technology, work harder and be less susceptible to injuries. When employers give in to such beliefs, they discredit the valuable experience and knowledge an older worker can bring to the job. In addition to this, they may be guilty of age discrimination, an action prohibited by federal law.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects both employees and applicants age 40 and above from discrimination based on age in every aspect of employment. It applies to employers with at least 20 employees, the federal government, employment agencies, state and local agencies and labor organizations with at least 25 members. States are also obligated to create laws for workplaces with fewer than 20 employees and stronger protections for older workers.
Under the law, there are certain actions that employers cannot take. Employers cannot talk about age or state what age is preferred in ads or recruiting materials. There is debate about whether it is legal to ask what a person’s year of graduation or year of birth is. They also cannot set age limits for training programs and retaliate against someone if they have filed a claim for age discrimination. Other than a few narrow exceptions, employers also cannot force a worker to retire at a certain age. Policies that have a disparate impact on workers are also not allowed-these are policies that may appear neutral on their face but end up having a harsher impact on older workers. An employer also cannot prohibit an employee from participating in an employer’s benefit program because of age.
Earning a living at any age is difficult, but if an employer is preventing someone from having a steady job and financial security due to their age, this is illegal. If a worker feels he or she is the victim of age discrimination, they may have the right to file a claim.