Perhaps you yourself would never discriminate against an employee on the basis of age, but plenty of business owners would. That is why the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was enacted. This was brought into law in order to protect individuals from being discriminated against due to age. More specifically, the law was enacted to protect workers over the age of 40 who may get substandard treatment when compared to younger workers who could potentially be with a company for much longer. You may be discriminating without even realizing, so update your knowledge about the law to stay on the safe side.
What Does the ADEA Entail?
The purpose of the ADEA is to protect employees who are age 40 or older. It states that these individuals cannot be treated differently when it comes to privileges of employment, terms and conditions. The ADEA only applies to companies that have at least 20 employees. Virtually any business is covered by the law, including the federal government, local governments, employment agencies and labor organizations. Numerous provisions are found within the law such as:
- Business owners are not allowed to discriminate against people due to their ages at any point within the employment process, including hiring, interviewing, promoting or terminating employment.
- If a company’s workforce needs to be reduced, employers cannot unfairly target individuals based on their ages.
- When a company advertises for an open position, it cannot include information about how only people of a certain age can apply unless it can be definitely proven that age is a fundamental requirement of doing the job efficiently.
- Employers cannot force certain workers to take an early retirement.
- Different health insurance cannot be given to certain employees based on age.
- Employers cannot retaliate against employees who exercise their rights under the ADEA.
There are certain situations where the guidelines presented within the ADEA are not applied. These instances include:
- Employees being treated differently due to some other factors outside of age such as skillset, experiences or education.
- There is a certified age limitation that must be placed on a position in order for the person to do the responsibilities of the job effectively. A reasonable belief must be in place that individuals over a certain age would be incapable of doing this job because it is an impossibility or safety issues are at play.
- Individuals in executive positions may be required to retire at 65 as long as they get an annual pension of $44,000 at the bare minimum.
- The company has a seniority system that dictates that certain individuals get different salaries or benefits than others.
- The company employs fewer than 20 people.
Waiving Rights Under the ADEA
As an employer, you can have your employees sign a waiver that basically has them waive their rights under the ADEA. This is generally done when you want to encourage an early retirement program or when your company needs to have a mass employment termination program. Employees waive their rights under the ADEA and in exchange they generally receive a generous severance package or other benefits. Certain items need to be present in an ADEA waiver, including:
- The employee must have at least 21 days to consider the waiver and be given seven days after signing it to revoke it if desired.
- Future rights and claims under the ADEA cannot be waived.
- The waiver must be in writing and completely understandable.
- The employee has a right to meet with legal counsel before signing.
- The waiver can only suspend rights under the ADEA and not any additional laws.
Many states have other laws regarding age discrimination that you should look into to ensure you are remaining on the right side of the law. Age is rarely a factor when determining the best person for the job, so put it out of your head when you are deciding who to hire, who to keep and what benefits to give.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.