Monday, November 17, 2008

Age Discrimination in the Job Search

An AARP study found that 79 percent of baby boomers expect to work at least part-time when they "retire" and the federal government predicts that the number of people over 55 who are working will rise 49 percent between 2002 and 2012.

Age discrimination is a complicated legal concept -- and discrimination may be difficult to prove. For example, a candidate may be deemed "overqualified" as a way to justify not hiring them because they are too old.

Employees and job applicants who are 40 years old or older are protected from age discrimination by both federal and state laws. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against employees and job applicants who are 40 or older and work for an employer with at least 20 employees, including state and local governments. It also prohibits employment agencies, the federal government, and labor organizations (such as unions) with at least 25 members, from discriminating against individuals based on age.

Employers who meet these requirements may not discriminate against workers ages 40 and older in hiring, firing, compensation, benefits, terms, conditions, or any other aspect of employment, because of their age.

They may not retaliate against an individual who complains about age discrimination or helps the government investigate an age discrimination charge.

The ADEA allows an employee or job applicant who believes they have been discriminated against based on their age to file a charge against an employer, employment agency, union, or government agency. Charges are filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal government agency that is responsible for investigating the charge.

There are a few exceptions to the ADEA -- for example, there are jobs where an employer must be able to provide that an age limit is necessary for adequate job performance. There are also companies that mandate that their executives and high-level policymaking employees retire at a certain age.

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