Workplace Rights

Weekly (5/11/20)

Topic of the Week  Age Discrimination

  • What is age discrimination?
  • Are there state law(s) that cover older workers?
  • Who is covered by age discrimination laws?

What is age discrimination?

If you are 40 years of age or older, and you have been harmed by a decision affecting your employment, you may have suffered unlawful age discrimination. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), discussed below at number 2, is a federal law that protects individuals 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. Here are some examples of potentially unlawful age discrimination:

  • You didn't get hired because the employer wanted a younger-looking person to do the job.
  • You received a negative job evaluation because you weren't "flexible" in taking on new projects.
  • You were fired because your boss wanted to keep younger workers who are paid less.
  • You were turned down for a promotion, which went to someone younger hired from outside the company, because the boss says the company "needs new blood."
  • When company layoffs are announced, most of the persons laid off were older, while younger workers with less seniority and less on-the-job experience were kept on.
  • Before you were fired, your supervisor made age-related remarks about you, such as that you were "over-the-hill," or "ancient."

If any of these things have happened to you on the job, you may have suffered age discrimination.

Are there state law(s) that cover older workers?

Every state except South Dakota has a law prohibiting age discrimination in the workplace. Forty-three state laws include age within their omnibus anti-discrimination laws, meaning the same standards and damages apply in age cases as they do in other state law discrimination cases. Thirty-two state laws provide for either compensatory and/or punitive damages, with 21 states providing for both.

Who is covered by age discrimination laws?

Workers who are 40 years of age or older are protected by the ADEA from employment discrimination based on age, if the employer regularly employs 20 or more employees.

Many states also make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of age; however, the minimum number of employees needed to bring a claim varies. For more information, please see our page on the minimum number of employees needed to file a claim under your state law.

If two workers are both protected by the ADEA, an employer still may not use age as the basis for an employment decision. For example, a company can't hire a 45-year-old over a 62-year-old simply because of age; if the company hired the younger employee due to her age, the 62-year-old employee would still have a claim.

The ADEA's protections apply to both employees and job applicants. If you are a current employee over 40 and are fired or not promoted due to age, you are protected. If you are not hired due to age, you are also protected.

Thought of the Week

"The coronavirus pandemic has affected people of all ages, but one age group may feel as though the odds are stacked against them. Based on research conducted during the Great Recession, it will likely be difficult for Americans who are 50 years or older to re-enter the workforce."

–Susan Weinstock | Vice President of Financial Resiliency at AARP,

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Blog of the Week

Top Five News Headlines

    List of the Week

    from Hiscox Insurance

    Ageism in the Workplace Study

    • 2024, workers age 55 and older will represent 25% of the nation’s workforce
    • Older workers typically endure the longest period of unemployment compared to other age groups and will likely take a significant pay cut if they become re-employed.
    • 36% of individuals surved feel their age has prevented them from getting a job since turning 40.


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