Protecting Employees Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
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Protecting Employees Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers aged 40 and above from employment discrimination. This Act applies to companies with a workforce of 20 or more employees. To sue for age discrimination, file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and receive a Notice of Right to Sue.

Basics

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act was established in 1967 to protect workers aged 40 and above from discrimination in the workplace. The ADEA prohibits employers from making decisions regarding hiring, firing, or promotions based on an employee's age. The primary goal of the ADEA is to reduce the negative impact of prolonged unemployment on older workers.

A Closer Look

The ADEA prohibits the use of age as a factor in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, or employment privileges. It also prohibits discrimination in hiring, promotions, wages, terminations, and layoffs based on age. The act forbids making statements about age preferences or limitations, harassing older workers due to their age, and denying benefits to older employees unless the cost is the same as providing full benefits to younger workers. Mandatory retirement based on age is allowed only for executives entitled to a pension paying over a minimum sum annually.

The ADEA applies to private and public employers with at least 20 workers and union practices affecting members. Victims of age discrimination may receive compensatory and punitive damages if reinstatement is not possible and the employer intentionally violated the law. Enforcement of the ADEA is done by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A Brief History of the ADEA

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act passed in 1967, was designed to tackle the use of "arbitrary age limits" in staffing decisions. It acknowledged that older workers were disproportionately affected by the loss of job skills due to long-term unemployment. The Act's purpose, as stated in the Congressional findings, is to promote employment based on ability, prohibit arbitrary age discrimination, and help employers and workers address age-related employment challenges.

Filing a Charge

If you have experienced unfair treatment based on your age, you have the right to take legal action against your employer. You can file a charge with the EEOC through its public portal. Keep in mind the time limits: employees have 180 days to file a charge, but in certain states, this extends to 300 days, while job applicants must file within 45 days. Before filing a lawsuit in court, you must lodge a complaint with the EEOC and acquire a Notice of Right to Sue.

Amendments to the ADEA

The ADEA underwent amendments in 1986 and 1990 to enhance its protections for workers. The 1986 amendment removed an age cap, extending coverage to workers aged 70 and older, previously limited between 40 and 70. In 1990, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act was added to the ADEA, ensuring employers cannot use age to determine benefits and protecting older workers from being forced to waive their right to sue for age discrimination.

Age Discrimination Examples

Age discrimination involves employers refusing to hire or promote individuals aged 40 or older and taking actions like firing employees or limiting their compensation, assignments, and benefits based on age. It can manifest through situations like getting fired to make room for a younger workforce, being denied promotions in favor of younger hires, or receiving negative job reviews due to perceived inflexibility. In the fiscal year 2020, the U.S. EEOC received 14,183 age discrimination charges, accounting for 21% of all workplace discrimination charges filed during that period.

Conclusion

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects workers aged 40 and above from employment discrimination. It prohibits employers from making decisions regarding hiring, firing, or promotions based on an employee's age. If you have experienced age discrimination in the workplace, you have the right to take legal action against your employer by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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