The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on their age. The ADEA applies to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training. The ADEA applies to employers with twenty (20) or more employees.
Under the ADEA it is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on age or for filing an age discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADEA. In other words, the ADEA protects an employee who opposes an employer’s acts of age discrimination against another employee.
To establish a preliminary case of age discrimination, an employee must prove:
1) That he/she was within the protected age group, i.e. older than forty (40) years of age;
2) That he/she was qualified for the position;
3) That he/she suffered an “adverse employment action,” e.g. demotion, termination, failure to give raises or benefits; and
4) That the adverse employment action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of age discrimination.
Once an employee establishes a preliminary case of age discrimination, the employer is then required to present evidence that the adverse employment action was taken for “legitimate, non-discriminatory business reasons.”
If the employer provides this evidence then the employee must prove that his/her age was the real reason for the adverse employment action, or that the employer’s reason for the adverse employment action is false.