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The 7 biggest triggers to age bias claims … and how to avoid them

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Hiring,Human Resources

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act makes it illegal to discriminate against people age 40 and older in hiring, terminations, pay, promotions, benefits and any other terms of employment. Here are the key areas where age bias claims typically pop up:

1. Job advertisements. You know that you can’t specify a certain age for a position. But also realize that certain phrases
in ads can imply age-based needs. Avoid phrases such as “recent college grad” or “young aggressive types.”

2. Job interviews. Don’t initiate discussions that could relate to age. While the ADEA doesn’t specifically prohibit you from asking an applicant’s age or date of birth, it will be difficult to prove that age wasn’t a hiring factor if it was discussed in the interview. Stick to performance-based questions.

3. Job assignments: Courts frown on employers that take the view that certain types of jobs should go only to younger people because older ones don’t have the energy or “image” for a specific job.

4. Apprenticeship programs: It’s generally unlawful for apprenticeship programs to discriminate on the basis of a person’s age.

5. Harassment: Sexual harassment grabs the headlines but other types of illegal harassment exist. That includes age-based harassment. If supervisors tolerate “old guy” jokes and oral abuse aimed at employees age 40 or older, such banter could provide grounds for a harassment lawsuit.

6. Benefits and training: The ADEA specifically prohibits denying benefits to older employees. That includes training opportunities because they are perceived to be late in their careers.

7. Layoffs/downsizing: When planning layoffs, employers must ensure that there’s no disproportionate impact on older employees.

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