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Exploring The Scope of the ADEA


You recently celebrated your 40th birthday. Up until now, your employer has always treated you with respect and decency. However, recently, you notice your employer has started engaging in behavior that you believe may be illegal. He refuses to extend you the same employee benefits as your younger counterparts, has started giving you much more difficult assignments with impossible timelines, and has generally stated making offensive comments about your age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”) makes such actions illegal if based on an employee’s age. It is important to understand who and what types of actions the ADEA applies to if you want to initiate legal action against your employer for unlawful age discrimination under the Act.

What Employers Are Subject to the ADEA?

Employers that have more than 20 or more employees fall under the purview of the ADEA. This includes employment agencies and the federal, state, and local government. The Act provides that these 20+ employees must work for “each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.”

What Individuals Can Sue Under the ADEA?

The ADEA applies to both employees as well as job applicants. This means even if you are not an employee, you may sue a potential employer for age discrimination. Two common examples of when job applicants may have a claim is regarding job postings and pre-employment surveys:

  • Job Postings: As a general rule, the ADEA makes it illegal for an employer to list age preferences, specifications, or limitations in job postings for a given position. One major exception to this rule is where an employer may show that age is a “bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOQ) that is reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business. This exception occurs under limited circumstances, often where heavy physical lifting or hours of manual labor are required.
  • Pre-Employment Surveys: As a second general rule, requests for age-related information such as date of birth will be allowed as long as they are for a lawful purpose, not to discriminate against a group of applicants based on age.

On the other side, there are several common examples of when an employee may sue their employer for discrimination under the ADEA:

  • Discrimination Regarding Aspects of Employment Generally: It is illegal under the ADEA for an employer to fire/lay off, refuse to promote or pay, or refuse to give job assignments to employees based on age.
  • Denial of Benefits: The ADEA makes it illegal for employers to deny benefits to older employees strictly based on age. However, an employer may, in certain instances, reduce benefits provided to older employers if the cost of providing the reduced benefits is not lower than the cost of providing these benefits to younger employees.
  • Harassment: The ADEA provides that an employer may not harass an employee based on age. However, in order for harassing and offensive comments to rise to the level of a claim under the ADEA, the employee typically will need to show a pattern of offensive, serious and repeated behavior.

Reach Out to Us For Assistance

If you are facing discriminatory behavior at work based on your age, you should hire an experienced employment lawyer to explain the ins and outs of the ADEA and any other law that may be applicable to your case. The experienced Clearwater attorneys at Dilla Employment Law, P.A. can help walk you through your options so you maximize your chance of success moving forward. Contact us today for a free consultation.


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