Age Discrimination

Employers have rights but age discrimination can get you into trouble if you are not careful. In the US, it is generally not legal to discriminate based on age. The lone exception is that it is OK to ask if a person is over the legal age to work, 18.

As an example the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA) is a US Federal law that forbids discrimination against people who are 40 and older.  They are considered a protected class for the purposes of employment. 

There are other cases like in states where you must be 21 to serve alcohol. In all these cases, you can only ask if there person meets the criteria of being able to prove that they meet the requirement. In other words you can't ask them their age.


Age Related Criteria

While age discrimination is illegal, there are sometimes reasons why a business would want to hire someone within a specific age range. One reason for example might be the cost of someone who has too much experience. You assume that a person who is older would have too much experience and would want too much money.

The way that you can legally discriminate is not based on age it is based on qualifications for the job. For example you can say that a person must have 10 to 20 years experience. That will eliminate a good number of people who are too expensive.

Change Your Focus

Say you don't want young people because the lack of experience will be a drag on the team. Focus on the experience. Make sure a candidate has at least 10 years experience.

In other words, don't focus on age. Repeat, don't focus on age. Focus instead on the desired qualifications of a person. In both examples above, the concern was too much money and too little experience. It was not necessarily age but age closely correlated to the problem.

As an employer you can not discriminate based on age. You can discriminate based on qualifications.

Interviews - In Person and on the Phone

If you have not already done so, review our section on phone interviews , legal interview questions , and illegal interview questions. You won't want to be discriminating in any part of your hiring process so learn what you can and can not ask a candidate before you interview them.

Return from Age Discrimination to Employer Rights

Return from Age Discrimination to Staffing and Recruiting





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