If you are a worker over the age of 40, you may have serious concerns about age discrimination in the workplace. Some employers prefer younger workers to older employees and may try to discriminate against an older employee such as yourself. Fortunately, a federal law known as the ADEA protects older workers against age discrimination. Here is a closer look at this issue.
What is the Law?
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, typically referred to as the ADEA, is a law that came into effect in 1967. Its purpose was to stop discrimination against older employees n the workplace. The law prohibits discrimination based on age for individuals who are 40 or over if the employer has 20 workers or more. Affected workers are protected from being disfavored for things such as promotions, discharges, hiring, compensation and terms of employment because of their age.
Forcing a worker to retire because of their age is also prohibited by the ADEA, with one exception. A company may require a senior executive to retire based on their age if the size of the individual's pension is over a specified amount.
What is BFOQ?
An important exception to the ADEA is known as bona fide occupational qualifications, or BFOQ. Under this rule, a worker 's age can be used against them in certain situations where their age might negatively impact their performance. A prominent example occurs when an elderly person is not hired as a school bus driver because of their age. The safety of the children involved takes precedence over any age discrimination on the part of the employer. Also, a television show can discriminate for age-related reasons in some situations. For example, if a producer is casting for the part of a 20-year-old character, hiring a 70-year-old person for the part would not be realistic, so the BFOQ exception applies.
Can I Sue?
If you believe that your employer has violated the ADEA and discriminated against based on your age, you have the right to file a lawsuit as long as you follow the accepted process. First, you must file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. This agency will investigate your claim. Once you have filed the complaint, you may file the lawsuit when 60 days have passed from the time you registered your complaint with the EEOC. You cannot file any later, however, than 90 days after the EEOC investigation concludes.
To learn more about this topic, talk with an age discrimination law attorney.