Definition: Age Discrimination

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits age discrimination against older workers (persons 40 or older) in all aspects of employment. The Minnesota Human Rights Act more broadly protects all people over the age of 18 years from age discrimination as students and employees.

It is unlawful to discriminate against an employee or applicant on the basis of age with respect to any term or condition of employment including but not limited to hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training.

Stereotypes to be avoided include: beliefs that older workers are less flexible and unable to learn new procedures, particularly new technologies; that they are likely to retire soon; that they will resent a younger supervisor; that they are overqualified and won’t be happy.

In fact, today’s career patterns show that many people work far longer than traditional retirement age. The longer employment life span means that careers often take different paths at different stages, and their length can rarely be anticipated.

In other words, employment decisions regarding older and younger workers should be based on the person’s skills and abilities. Do not reject a candidate because the person is over qualified. Offer the salary you can pay, commensurate with other employees in comparable positions, describe the duties accurately, and let the candidate decide whether to accept it.

In job postings, be careful when referring to qualifications that might primarily relate to a particular age group. For example, do not ask for “recent graduates,” instead ask for candidates who have experience and/or training related to the duties of the position.