The Employees Lawyer Weighs in on Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Prospective employers, under law, cannot ask a prospective job applicant such questions as “How old are you?” “Aren’t you a little old to apply for this job?” or “What year were you born?” This applies to companies accepting online applications.

Placing a question about the job seeker’s date of birth or year of graduation from college may be illegal because it allows the interviewer to dismiss the applicant on the basis he or she is “too old” or “overqualified.”

When applying online, applicants should watch out for language regarding certain requirements for the job, as these would be discriminatory against older job seekers. Such examples include “Industrial management trainee, recent college degree,” “Sales trainee, any college degree,” “prefer recent college grad” and “Corporate attorney, two to four years out of law school.”

Such advertising is a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Also, a prospective employer may be committing age discrimination if they ask the applicant for a college degree (even if it isn’t relevant to the job and the applicant’s experience more than makes up for the lack of a degree) or to meet certain physical requirements (ie, “must be able to lift at least 50 lbs.”), even if that’s not what the job calls for.

Older workers (those between 40 and 70 years old) are a protected class. If they feel they have been refused a job offer because of their age, they should seek the help of an employment law attorney. They should also contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, their local human rights commission office or their state Attorney General’s office.

  • Steven Mitchell Sack, “The Employee’s Lawyer”
    Author, The Employee Rights Handbook

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