Age Discrimination Examples at Work

In general, Americans enjoy the right to be treated fairly in the workplace. They should never to be subjected to discriminatory employment practices based on such factors as age, disability, national origin, religion or race. Various federal, state and local laws have been passed to prohibit such discrimination. (In addition to the federal laws discussed below, readers may want to visit the following U. S. Department of Labor Web site to learn more about how these laws have been interpreted and applied by their state and local governments. See: All 50 States)

Most age discrimination cases are related to the following Age Discrimination Examples:

  • Hiring - hiring discrimination based on age decisions
  • Firing - firing on the basis of age
  • Promotion - unfair promotions suspect to age discrimination
  • Layoff compensation - laying off employees on the basis of age, and unfair severance compensation
  • Benefits - attempting to deny or limit benefits on the basis of age
  • Job Assignments and Training - age biased assignments and training

They can also involve employer retaliation against an employee who has been trying to pursue the filing of an EEOC claim.

I.  Federal Statutory Protections

A.    The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) offers protection to employees and applicant who are 40 years of age or older from the improper use of age when workplace decisions are being made. Typically, these decisions are related to such topics as hiring, promotion, discharge and compensation. The ADEA also prevents employers from discriminating  against those 40 years of age and older when determining other terms, conditions or privileges of employment. This Act is enforced .by the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Note: The ADEA only applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including state     and local governments. Also, it applies to labor organizations and employment agencies, in addition to the federal government. During Fiscal Year 2008, the  EEOC received 24,582 age discrimination charges.

B.     The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 is more comprehensive in some ways since it applies to workers of all ages. However, it only applies to those working in programs or activities receiving financial assistance from the federal government. This Act is enforced by the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Civil Rights Center.

II. General Grounds for Bringing Any Discrimination Claim

Although employees can file eeoc claims and private lawsuits based on any of the specific discriminatory grounds such as race, gender, age, disability and religion, each of these claims must allege that the individual was discriminated against under either the theory of Disparate Treatment or Adverse Impact.

A.    Disparate Treatment Claims    

When bringing an age discrimination claim alleging one has received disparate treatment by an employer, the employee or applicant must show:

1). That he or she belongs to a protected class under the ADEA or 1975 Act;

2)  That he or she applied for a position or promotion and fully met all of the advertised requirements for the    job;

3) That the applicant or employee was not chosen and was actually rejected;

4) That the employer went on screening other candidates who did not belong to a protected class like the aggrieved applicant or employee.

5) That if the claim was not based on a hiring or promotion issue, it was based on another employment practice such as pay reduction, termination or improper layoff practices.

6) One of the key types of Disparate Treatment cases is one alleging actual workplace harassment based on one’s status regarding age, disability, race, religion or similar situation formally recognized by federal statute. One of the most difficult parts of filing this type of case is that the aggrieved party must prove that the conduct complained of was unwanted, offensive, ongoing or so severe as to negatively influence the employee's job performance.

Who can file this type of claim?

1. You do not have to be an employee to file this type of claim. You can simply be an independent contractor exposed to the offensive behavior in the workplace.

2. You do not have to be the direct target of the offensive behavior. It is considered legally sufficient if you are so regularly exposed to the wrongful behavior or remarks that you are no longer able to do your best work.

B. Adverse Impact Claims

When bringing an age discrimination claim alleging that some employment practice has adversely affected you, it may not initially appear to others that the decision or behavior was unfair. However, as the aggrieved employee or applicant, you must show that the action is not validly related to a proper employer objective.


if your employer states that all traveling sales employees must turn over their territories to younger workers once they turn 65 and begin handling in-office file work as directed,  you have the right to bring a claim stating that this practice will adversely impact your income or other benefits. If you can show that at age 65 or above you are just as capable and competitive out on the road as your younger counterparts, this employer criterion is likely to fail. You would then probably prevail on your adverse impact charge.

Who can file this type of claim?

1. You do need to be either an employee or job applicant when filing this type of claim.

2. You must be personally affected in a negative way by the employer’s alleged adverse impact rule or practice.

III. How to File an EEOC Claim and Further Protect Your Rights

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has simplified its filing process. It is now sufficient to officially begin the process by filling out an Intake Questionnaire. (See: Filing an EEOC Charge and Filling out the Questionnaire).  

Warning: If you want to fully complete this process, you must be sure to complete Parts One AND Two of the EEOC Assessment referenced to above under “Filling out the Questionnaire” and either file the Intake Questionnaire online or take it with you to your nearest EEOC Regional Office.

Please keep in mind that you must file an EEOC charge if you want to also sue your employer (current or prospective) in court. You can look elsewhere on this Web site to learn more about general Employment Law claims and find a highly qualified Employment Law Attorney to help you file your case.