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What is age discrimination? What are some examples of age discrimination?

Age discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee or applicant less favorably because of their age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), a federal law, forbids employment discrimination based on age for those over the age of 40. However, some states do protect younger workers from age discrimination.

The ADEA prohibits setting age limits on training programs, mentioning age preferences for jobs and forcing employees to retire at a certain age. The law also prohibits employment policies that have a negative and disparate impact on older workers, unless the employer can prove that they are based on reasonable factors unrelated to age. Additionally, harassment based on age is illegal under the ADEA.

Behaviors and negative employment actions which display age discrimination include:

  • Not getting hired because the employer was seeking someone who looks younger
  • Recruitment policies that put age limits on a person’s job eligibility (such as restricting the pool to those who have less than 20 years of experience)
  • Being turned down from a promotion, and the position given to someone younger outside the company, because your employer wants the company to have a younger appearance
  • Firing mostly older workers during company layoffs
  • Being called old before being fired
  • Firing older, more senior employees in favor of keeping younger workers who are paid less
  • Giving younger workers more favorable work opportunities or conditions, such as offering them better projects or equipment than older workers
  • Harassment, such as being called names or other forms of hostility, based on age

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