Title: Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA)
Statute: 29 U.S.C. § 623
Governing Agency: United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
General Overview: Enacted in 1967, this federal act prohibits discrimination in the line of employment against parties 40 years of age and older (some states do have laws that protect younger workers). The ADEA prohibits discrimination and retaliatory acts against employees or applicants for employment that have opposed or reported any conduct or practice made unlawful by the ADEA.
Originally, all sections of the ADEA applied only to the private sector. In 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court held that a federal employee who is a victim of retaliation due to the filing of a complaint of age discrimination may assert a claim under the ADEA. This decision ultimately gave federal employees the same right to sue for alleged retaliation under the ADEA that private-sector employees have.
Courts have construed the ADEA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 very similarly. Both have been interpreted very broadly so the filings of discrimination charges are not inhibited
Who is covered?
- Employees of employers with over 20 employees
- Applicants of an employer with over 20 employees
- Applicants of an employment agency
- Current of prospective members of a labor union
- Federal employees
Who is not covered?
- Employees of employers with less than 20 employees
- State government employees
Note: Lawful age requirements can be set when age is a bona fide occupational qualification that is reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the particular business or position
What is covered?
- Individuals protected under the ADEA cannot be retaliated against or discriminated for:
-complaining internally or externally about alleged discrimination
-threatening to file a charge
-picketing in opposition to discrimination
-refusing to obey order reasonably believed to be discriminating based on age
- Illegal retaliation by employers includes:
-refusal to hire
-denial of promotions
-frequent and severe harassments and remarks about ones age
-actions that would result in a criminal charge or reasonably deter an individual from pursuing their rights
Note: Petty, slight actions are not considered acts of discrimination. Some of these include: annoyances, such as stray negative comments in an otherwise positive or neutral evaluation, "snubbing" a colleague, or negative comments that are justified by an employee's poor work performance or history.
How do I submit a claim? Step-by-Step Approach:
1. If you believe you have been retaliated or discriminated against due to your age or partaking in an activity protected by the ADEA you may file a charge with the EEOC. A charge with the EEOC must be filed prior to filing a private lawsuit. You must file a charge within 180 days of the date of the alleged violation (some state laws extend this period). Filing a charge with the EEOC.
Note: Federal employees have only 45 days to contact an EEO counselor.
2. The EEOC will notify the employer or labor union of the charge and begin an investigation.
3. The EEOC may attempt to settle the charge and refer it to their voluntary mediation program. This is a confidential process requiring the consent of both parties. Federal employees use the alternative dispute resolution program.
4. If a settlement cannot be reached, the EEOC may file suit in federal court if you are employed by a private employer. If you work for a public employer, the EEOC will refer the matter to the Employment Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division within the U.S. Department of Justice.
5. After the investigation, the EEOC may decide to dismiss the charge. When a charge is dismissed the EEOC will issue a notice to the parties, and you now have the right to file a lawsuit in court on your own behalf within 90 days of the notice. Individuals who have filed a charge with the EEOC have a right to request this notice if they wish to proceed to court and the EEOC has not completed their process.
Rights and Remedies:
· Equitable relief (injunctions)
· Actions prohibiting the employer or organization from continuing to engage in unlawful practices (example- training sessions, counseling)
· Reinstatement of employee with same seniority, duties, and responsibilities
· Hire employee if they were not based on age or partaking in a protected activity
· Back pay (with interest)
· Liquidated damages if it is proven the employer’s conduct was willful
· Reasonable attorney’s fees and other related court costs and litigation expenses
NOTE: No compensatory damages for pain and suffering
EEOC Facts About Age Discrimination
Policy and Guidance Documents Relating to Age Discrimination