A Quick Age Discrimination Q&A For HR Managers: 3 Facts Every Employer Should Know

In January 12, 2018

Understanding applicable laws and regulations is crucial for employers who want to avoid making HR mistakes. This is especially true in respects to discrimination laws, as failure to comply can be quite costly in terms of fines, lawsuits, and public perception of your organization. Below are three important (and often misunderstood) questions about age discrimination regulation in the US.

Question: Who is Protected by Age Discrimination Laws?
Answer: The Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 states that everyone over the age of 40 are a “protected class” — meaning that employers are not allowed to take adverse action against them simply for being members of that class. These protections apply to job candidates as well as to current employees.

Question: What Exactly Constitutes Age Discrimination?
Answer: Obviously, firing someone, assigning someone to undesirable duties, or failing to hire someone for no reason other than their age are clear examples of discrimination. When well-meaning employers commit age discrimination, the infraction is usually a bit more subtle. Creating company policies that disproportionately affect the elderly, mandating a retirement age, and/or allowing younger employees to create an environment hostile toward the elderly are all things to watch out for.

Question: Are there Exceptions to Age Discrimination Policy?
Answer: Broadly speaking, there are two exemptions from age discrimination laws. The first exists for small organizations with less than 20 employees. Such businesses are usually allowed to make hiring, firing, and employment decisions without the same level of federal scrutiny experienced by their larger counterparts. The second exception is known as the “bona fide occupational qualification” clause. If you have a legitimate business reason for hiring people of a certain age range, then you can petition for exemption.

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