The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is a federal law that protects workers and job applicants age 40 and over from age-based discrimination in all aspects of employment.
The ADEA does not apply to elected officials, independent contractors or military personnel. The law does apply to:
- Employers with at least 20 employees
- Employment agencies
- The federal government
- State and local government (though remedies are often limited)
- Labor organizations with at least 25 members
The ADEA prohibits age discrimination in decisions about hiring, firing, layoffs, pay, benefits, promotions, demotions, performance reviews or any other condition of employment. Under the ADEA, employers can't:
- Mention age or say that a certain age is preferred in job ads and recruiting materials; it is questionable but not automatically illegal to ask for date of birth or graduation on a job application
- Set age limits for training programs
- Retaliate against you if you file charges of age discrimination or help the government investigate charges
- Force you to retire at a certain age (except for a few narrow exceptions)
The law also prohibits policies and practices that have a "disparate impact" on older workers. These are policies that appear to be age-neutral but fall more harshly on older workers. Policies or practices that have a disproportionately adverse impact on older workers are unlawful unless the employer can prove they are based on a reasonable factor other than age.
Similarly, The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits all public employers and private employers of 15 or more persons from discriminating in employment because of age, ILCS 775 Sec. 5/1-101 et seq. The Act applies to applicants and employees who are 40 years of age and older. Under the Act, and with certain exceptions, it is unlawful to:
- Refuse to hire or to discriminate with respect to recruitment, hiring, promotion, or renewal of employment on the basis of age;
- Discharge, discipline, or discriminate against any individual with respect to tenure or the terms, privileges, or conditions of employment on the basis of age;
- Make employment decisions related to selection for training or apprenticeship on the basis of age for individuals between the ages of 18 and 40 years;
- Retaliate against a person because he or she has opposed that which he or she reasonably and in good faith believes to be unlawful discrimination or because he or she has made a charge, filed a complaint, or testified, assisted, or participated in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under the Act;
- Aid, abet, compel, or coerce a person to commit any violation of the Act; and,
- Willfully interfere with the state Human Rights Commission or Department or its members or representatives.
A successful plaintiff in a civil suit may be entitled to back pay, attorneys' fees, injunctive relief, front pay, and liquidated damages for willful violations. Please note that neither compensatory nor punitive damages are available under the ADEA.
If you believe that your employer has violated the law, call Holman & Stefanowicz, LLC at 312-258-9700 for a free evaluation of your potential claim. We can help determine whether you have a claim.