What Is the Age Discrimination Act of 1967? - Summary, Lesson & Quiz

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Shawn Grimsley

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 is an important employment law for both employees and employers to know. In this lesson, you will learn about what the law is and some of its key provisions. You will have an opportunity to reinforce your knowledge with a short quiz.

We also recommend watching Diversity Issues in the Workplace: Discrimination, Sexism, Agism & More and The Sarbanes Oxley Act

Definition

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits employment discrimination based upon age if the applicant or employee is 40 years of age or older.

Key Concepts

While the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) does make age discrimination illegal for applicants and employees aged 40 and over, it does not protect employees under the age of 40. In other words, the ADEA does not prohibit employers from discriminating against employees under the age of forty.

The scope of the ADEA is fairly broad. The ADEA covers employment activities including, but not limited to, hiring, firing, layoffs, promotion, compensation, benefits, training and job assignments. Age-based harassment is illegal if it is so pervasive that it creates a hostile or offensive workplace for the victim or results in an adverse employment decision against the victim, such as a demotion or termination. Additionally, an employment policy or practice can also be illegal under the ADEA if it applies to all employees but has a negative impact on applicants or employees who are 40 years of age or older if it is not based on a reasonable factor other than age.

Investigation, Enforcement and Resolution

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the ADEA. It has the authority to investigate claims of discrimination brought by employees. It will ask the employer for a response, and then it will undertake an investigation. If the EEOC makes a finding of discrimination, it will try to settle the issue with the employer and employee. If it can't settle the dispute, it can file a lawsuit against the employer in court. If the employee disagrees with the EEOC's findings, the employee can file a lawsuit against the employer as well.

Example

Let' say you are a sixty year old executive at a medical supply company. Your company is going through some downsizing because of the current recession. You are surprised to find that you are released while other executives with less experience and time at the company survived the downsizing. You meet with some of your close colleagues at your usual bar. They tell you that the scuttlebutt around the company is that the new management is axing any mid-level executive over the age of 55.

You decide to visit with an HR representative to inquire about the rumors. You are politely told to mind your own business. You decide to file a complaint with the EEOC for age discrimination under the ADEA. The EEOC requests a response from your old employer and then investigates the case. The EEOC discovers that nearly all mid-level managers terminated during the downsizing were at least fifty-five years of age. It makes a finding of discrimination and tries to settle the case, but the company refuses. You decide to exercise your right to sue the company in federal court and eventually win your case and the court awards you damages.

Summary

The ADEA is a federal employment law that makes age discrimination against applicants and employees forty years of age or older illegal. It applies to most employment activities including hiring, firing, job assignments, layoffs, promotion, compensation and training. The EEOC enforces the ADEA. It investigates claims brought by employees, makes a determination whether there was a violation of the ADEA, and attempts to settle the employee's claim with the employer. If a claim is not settled, the EEOC may bring a lawsuit for enforcement. An employee can also bring a lawsuit against the employer.

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