The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) makes age discrimination illegal. The ADEA prohibits discrimination against individuals over the age of 40. Like the other discrimination laws, if you are over 40, your employer may not discriminate against you on the basis of your age, and you are also protected from harassment on the basis of your age.
Like the other anti-discrimination laws, the ADEA prohibits any type of adverse action against you because of your age including the failure to hire you or a discharge because of your age. This also includes age harassment, which typically involves hostility or abuse directed at you by other employees because of your age. The ADEA also prohibits retaliation against you for complaining about age discrimination or for participating in someone else’s age discrimination case.
The ADEA has a few significant differences from Title VII. It applies only to employers that employ more than 20 people, unlike Title VII’s 15-employee threshold. Furthermore, the Older Worker Benefit Protection Act amended the ADEA to give over-40 employees special protections when they are asked to sign a waiver or release of claims. If you are over 40 and are offered a settlement of an age discrimination claim, your employer must take extra steps to ensure that any release or waiver you enter into is knowing and voluntary. This requires that any release or waiver must:
- Be in writing and be understandable;
- Specifically refer to your ADEA rights or claims;
- Not waive any rights or claims that may arise in the future;
- Be in exchange for valuable consideration given to you;
- Advise you to consult an attorney before signing the waiver; and
- Provide you at least 21 days to consider the agreement and at least seven days to revoke the agreement after signing it.
Moreover, if you are over 40 and are selected for some form of exit incentive program or buyout, your employer must provide you with a detailed disclosure of the ages and job titles of all employees that were eligible for the program and all employees that were in fact selected for the program.
If you or someone you know have been victimized by age discrimination or you are not sure of whether you should sign a severance agreement, you need to seek legal advice. The ADEA has a very short time limit for filing claims and if you fail to meet the deadline, you could lose the right to bring an age discrimination claim. We can help you understand your rights and determine whether you have been discriminated against because of your age. To discuss your potential claim, call us at 202-589-1834 or email us.