Both elderly and youthful employees can fall victim to age discrimination. Employers are generally not allowed to hire, fire, promote, or decide an employee's compensation based on their age. However, it can be difficult to determine whether an employer's actions were motivated by age discrimination, or by a genuine belief that another person can do a particular job better and faster. Fortunately, many states have extensive complaint and fact-finding procedures so that employees can determine when they have been victims of discrimination and assert their rights. Read through the articles below to find out how you can protect yourself in your state.
Age Discrimination in Employment
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits discrimination against employers and applicants who are 40 years of age or older. State laws and additional federal laws such as the Older Worker's Benefit Protection Act also serve to protect older workers from discrimination, though the ADEA remains the primary legislation on the issue.
The ADEA clearly prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of age at any point in the employment process including application, interview, hiring, promotion, and termination. This applies to advertisements, compensation, job assignments, discipline, and termination. Advertisements for work cannot include age limitations unless this is tied to a bona fide occupational qualification based on business necessity. Employers cannot reduce life or health benefits for older workers, force early retirements, or use workforce reductions to purge older workers. Workers who take action under the ADEA are protected from punitive actions by the employer.
EEOC's Charge Processing Procedures
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for investigating reported violations and enforcing provisions of the ADEA. EEOC cases are typically opened by employees who report incidents of discrimination. When the EEOC receives a complaint they file a "charge."
Charges are investigated by the EEOC and the agency is empowered to settle claims between a charging party and their employer. Charges receive priority depending on the strength of the initial facts. Where the evidence is weaker more investigation may be ordered. The EEOC can request documents and information or interview employees. When the investigation is complete the agency discusses its findings with the charging party or employer, as appropriate.
If a settlement isn't reached and the parties are amenable the EEOC may offer they may offer mediation. This is often a way to avoid lengthy investigation or trial. If mediation is unsuccessful the charge is returned for investigation.
A charge can be dismissed at any point if the EEOC finds no violation of the law. If the agency cannot resolve the charge through its processes the charging party can file a lawsuit within 90 days of receiving a "right to sue" letter from the EEOC.
If the agency finds evidence that establishes that discrimination is occurred the EEOC issues a letter of determination and attempts "conciliation" with the employer to develop a remedy for the problem. If conciliation is not possible the EEOC can commence a suit in federal court on behalf of the charging party or issue a notice closing the case and providing the charging party with a "right to sue" letter that permits them to pursue a lawsuit on their own behalf within 90 days of the issuance of the notice.