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The Age Discrimination In Employment Act (ADEA)

In today’s workforce, youth is prized. As a result, older workers can sometimes receive inequitable or even illegal treatment in the name of efficiency. While this is obviously against the regulations set out in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is also in contravention of the Age Discrimination In Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967. While Title VII’s provisions are perhaps more wide-reaching, the ADEA should not be overlooked in terms of its use if you believe you are being discriminated against due to your age.

A Preference For Youth

One important thing to remember is that the ADEA applies to both public and private companies. The law states that any enterprise or program that receives federal financial assistance falls under this aegis. Employers of any type with more than 20 employees must abide by its rules, and a failure to do so can result in fines and possible suit. The ADEA explicitly states that favoring younger workers at any stage of the hiring process is unacceptable and potentially actionable. However, workers over the age of 40 may be favored in some respects without causing any harm to younger employees. (The rationale is that young people have longer to work a job, so allowing a small group of older workers to jump the proverbial queue is not an undue burden.)

While the restrictions on such discrimination can be fairly straightforward, they can also be much more subtle than those against many other kinds of ill treatment, and they may cover more areas than Title VII. For example, it is worth noting that age discrimination can involve indirect queries or statements such as stating any kind of preference regarding age in a job advertisement. Another subtle way employers sometimes discriminate is by terminating older workers, claiming their benefits packages are too costly to the employer.

“Bona Fide” Occupational Qualification

There are rare exceptions where discrimination based on age—be it in favor of older or younger workers—is considered acceptable, but the exceptions to the general rule are quite narrow. Like Title VII, the ADEA permits businesses to discriminate in favor of younger workers if it can be shown that age is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). In other words, if it can be shown that having employees of a younger age is “reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business,” the practice may be considered acceptable.

While some states have laws that draw the distinction more narrowly between discrimination and bona fide occupational qualification, South Carolina does not, as of this writing. South Carolina tends to adopt federal law in governing many aspects of employment issues. Age discrimination claims may be handled at the state or the federal level, but it is important to remember that when specifically discussing BFOQ, it is the federal statute that will prevail, rather than South Carolina’s Human Affairs Law.

Consult An Employment Lawyer

No one should be made to feel redundant or useless simply because of their age, especially in fields where ability comes with experience, which comes with time. If you believe you have been discriminated against, the Charleston employment discrimination law firm of Hitchcock & Potts may be able to assist you in determining how best to redress that. Call our office today to set up an initial consultation.

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