Workplace Age Discrimination & Younger Employees

Although The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) was not designed to cover workers under the age of 40, other federal laws, as well as some state and local laws, do provide added age discrimination protections to younger workers.

The Age Discrimination Act of 1975  clearly states that it covers employees of all ages when they’re working on projects that receive some federal funding. However, this Act makes it clear that there are special circumstances that occasionally justify an employment decision being based on age.

Other federal laws also seek to protect the rights of youthful workers by making sure their educational rights are protected and their hours are limited, especially for workers under the age of 16. Both the EEOC and the U.S. Department of Labor maintain Web sites specifically designed to teach the nation’s youngest workers about their workplace rights and responsibilities.

Minimum Wage Laws Governing Youth

Employers are not guilty of age discrimination when they pay new workers, under the age of 20, a wage of $4.25 (or higher), for their first 90 consecutive days of employment. (See: Minimum Wage). State and local wage laws may provide for other lawful youth wages without being discriminatory. It’s important to consult with a lawyer to determine if a particular youth wage is completely lawful.

Teen Work Hours Designed to Protect Educational Rights

Individual states frequently pass laws to protect their children from compromising their educational rights when they also want to work. The state of Indiana has passed such laws. (To learn more about the laws your state has passed to protect youth workers from age discrimination issues, you may want to contact the federal department of labor’s regional office nearest to you so they can refer you to the pertinent state and local statutes. See: All 50 States )

During the summer months, when many youth workers aren’t in school, employers are not allowed to take advantage of this fact and violate any aspect of the The Fair Labor Standards Act .

Most Appropriate Jobs for Teens

Just because a teen worker may be able to more easily move or climb about a particular work environment than an older co-worker, his or her age should not be subtly used in a discriminatory manner that endangers the youth’s safety. The U. S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created Web site pages to inform teens which types of jobs may not be the safest for them due to their age or current growth stage. For example, while some teens may be well suited for construction jobs, others should not be automatically assigned to such positions due solely to age considerations. (See: OSHA )


The most specific age discrimination laws benefiting children, other than those contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act and The Age Discrimination Act of 1975, are likely to be passed at the state and local levels for the foreseeable future. Should the economy continue to falter, leaving many youthful workers without jobs, we may start seeing more age discrimination cases filed by youths denied employment with federally funded jobs or forced to accept fewer benefits to keep such jobs.