Older workers are not immune from unfair treatment. This problem may grow as the American workforce becomes older.
Age discrimination laws
Discrimination based upon age occurs when a worker is treated unfairly or is disadvantaged because of their age. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Law prohibits discrimination in hiring, promotion, termination, compensation and in relation to employment terms and conditions. It covers workers who are 40 and older.
The ADEA contains exemptions from its ban on compulsory retirement for health, safety, or fitness. For example, airline pilots may be exempt. Some employees in executive positions are also excluded.
Under Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Act, employers may not engage in employment against an employee or job applicant because of their age. Under that law, the employee or applicant must be over 40.
Age discrimination is prevalent in many workplaces, especially in the technology and finance industries. According to a 2018 American Association of Retired Persons 2018 survey, 61% of workers who were 45 and older said that they experienced or saw this discrimination.
The Urban Institute and ProPublica also conducted a study in 2018 which indicated that 56% of workers who were at least 50 were forced to leave longtime jobs before they were ready to retire. When researchers submitted fake resumes which were identical except for the listed ages, older applicants received fewer responses than younger applicants.
Gender and race also play a role. In a study using fake resumes, researchers discovered that discrimination is greater and begins much earlier for older women than older men. Sixty-four percent of women workers and 75% of Black workers claimed to have witnessed or experienced age discrimination, according to the AARP poll.
In 2021, there were approximately 13,000 complaints filed in this country under the ADEA. Experts believe these lawsuits represent only a small number of the actual instances of age discrimination.
Lawsuits are comparatively rare, according to experts, because many cases are settled out of court. Many times, employees are unaware that their employer violated their rights and applicants may not possess evidence that age was a factor in the decision not to hire them.
In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that plaintiffs in federal cases must prove that age was a deciding factor in their employers’ action.
Attorneys can assist workers with obtaining evidence and seeking compensation, reinstatement, and other relief because of discrimination. They can help assure that they can pursue their rights under federal and Pennsylvania laws.