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Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and Important Exceptions

    Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

The main focus of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 was to prevent any age based discrimination in employment.  The Act appears in the volume 29 of the United States Code at the beginning of section 621.  American population is aging fast and the aging population or the baby boomers have been a large and significant part of the US workforce. However, aging can give rise to problems, many of which are related to employment.  The baby boomers are the first ones to be replaced or removed when a company is downsizing its workforce. During the period of recession especially, the difficulties for this group had multiplied.  To retain their jobs had become difficult for the baby boomers.

Law has taken the issue of age related discrimination seriously. The main purpose of ADEA is to protect the workers aged 40 or above from any kind of discrimination.  The common practice in the industry was to set irrelevant age related standards. Such practices while they were beneficial for the employers, could be detrimental for the older workers. Its effect was that compared to the younger workers, the older workers were left jobless. The unemployment level was higher among them. Such problems hurt the morale of the older workers and they were faced with a lack of motivation. Apart from protection of employment for the older workers, the focus of ADEA is also to promote employment for the older workers based on their ability rather than their age. It helps both employees and employers address the problems related to employment born of age.

As per title 29, Chapter 14 section 623, an employer must not refuse to hire a person or fire him or discriminate against him in terms of compensation or other employment related privileges because of his age. Employers are not allowed to classify the older workers in manner to adversely affect their employment or give rise to discrimination against them in any other form. Apart from employers, hiring agencies and labor organizations are also required to abide to the law.  Hiring agencies should not discriminate against the older workers and must not fail to refer them for employment. Labor organizations are also not allowed to discriminate against the older employees or limit their membership privileges or even classify them in a manner that limits their employment opportunities. Any of these organizations cannot discriminate against the older workers or treat them in a manner that affects their status because of their age.  Neither should these organizations, in any manner attempt to make the employers discriminate against the older employees. The section also protects the older works from retaliation in any form by the hiring agencies, labor organizations or even the employers.

ADEA also affects employment related advertising. Employers, hiring agencies or even the labor organizations cannot discriminate against the older workers in advertisements. They cannot lay such advertisements that give a preferential treatment to the younger people. Neither can they limit the employment opportunities of any group based on age nor specify a definite age for employment or in any other way discriminate against the older workers on the basis of age.  Such advertisements that limit the opportunities for the older workers or give a preferential treatment to the younger workers shall be considered against the ADEA.  However, ADEA also lays down some exceptions. In certain cases, preferential treatment based on age can be considered not against law. Age in such cases becomes a bona fide occupational qualification.

Exceptions to the ADEA

In cases where age is a bona fide occupational qualification, it is lawful for the employer to hire workers from the younger age group. If hiring older people can be a hindrance to the successful performance of a task then it is not essential for the employer to hire old people. In such a case, he can only hire younger people. There are several jobs that require intensive physical labor.  Where the physical intensity of a given task makes the older workers unsuitable for the job, the employers are not required to hire from above the age group of 45. Age in such cases becomes a bona fide occupational qualification.

Another important exception in the case of ADEA is related to the law of foreign workplace. In case of a foreign workplace, where the foreign law may also be applicable, the employers are not required to follow the rules laid out by ADEA. These exceptions are not limited to just employment but also extend to the bona fide seniority systems and employee benefit plans. The baby boomer segment of the US workforce is aging fast and the older workforce has always faced bigger problems in terms of employment. Their problems are real and require being addressed on priority. ADEA tries to address the problems faced by these older employees that can affect their morale and employment status.  Discrimination whether related to compensation or any other employment related privileges is illegal and ADEA works to prevent it. Companies are prohibited from retaliation against the people who complain against such discriminatory practices. It has also laid out exceptions for cases where age becomes a bona fide requirement for the job, the companies are not required to adhere to the law. However, companies must be careful if they are trying to use it as an excuse because law will check all the aspects of the job before reaching a conclusion.

Sources:

https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/adea.cfm

Written by Abhijeet Pratap

Abhijeet has been blogging on educational topics and business research since 2016. He graduated with a Hons. in English literature from BRABU and an MBA from the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi. He likes to blog and share his knowledge and research in business management, marketing, literature and other areas with his readers.

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