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Are You Old Enough to Be Protected From Age Discrimination?


There are a handful of laws on the books protecting workers from being discriminated against due to their age. However, not everyone is protected. Are you?

(Photo Credit: tec_estromberg/Flickr)

A recent campaign to outlaw age discrimination in the Philippines brings up relevant questions about age discrimination laws here in the states. In the Philippines, you might be “too old” to work in your thirties. Here in the states, it depends in part on where you live and how many employees your employer has.

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Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967

The federal government passed the ADEA, which is enforced via the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC.) This act protects workers aged 40 and older from being discriminated against because of their age. However, the federal government does not protect you if you are 39 or younger.

The Devil In The Details

An especially interesting detail in the ADEA is that “it is not illegal for an employer or other covered entity to favor an older worker over a younger one, even if both workers are age 40 or older.” So, it seems that you may not be told you are too old, but you may be told you are not old enough.

The federal government mandates that in order to be protected from age discrimination laws, your employer must have at least 20 employees. If your company is so small that they only have, for example, 12 employees, you are not protected.

Some states pass stricter laws, and smaller employers are held responsible for age discrimination. This handy chart at Workplace Fairness details how many employees an employer must have to be covered. As you can see, in Calfornia an employer only needs five employees, and in Alaska, employers with only two employees are liable for federal age discrimination claims.

Age Discrimination Act of 1975

The Age Discrimination Act protects people of all ages, but only from discrimination at the hands of employers and other entities that receive federal funds. Good examples include colleges and universities that receive federal funding. If your employer receives assistance from the federal government, then you are protected against age discrimination no matter how old you are.

If you feel you have been the victim of age discrimination, best practice is to talk to a lawyer in your jurisdiction who specializes in employment and labor laws.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you witnessed or been the victim if age discrimination in the workplace? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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