Overview of Age Discrimination

The law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants because of their age.

Federal law forbids age discrimination against those who are 40 years of age or older. It does not protect workers under the age of 40, although some states do have laws that protect younger workers from age discrimination. For example, Kansas state law protects employees if they are 18 years of age or older. Under Missouri law, age discrimination protection stops at age 70. The law prohibits age discrimination in various aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, benefits, and other conditions of employment.

It is illegal to harass a person because of his or her age. Although off-hand remarks may not be enough to constitute harassment based on age, the harassment may become illegal when it occurs so regularly, or is so severe, that it results in a hostile or intolerable work environment.

An employer’s policy or procedures that apply to everyone, regardless of age, may be illegal if it results in an adverse impact on applicants or employees who are age 40 or older.
However, not all age-based decisions are discrimination. An employer generally may make an employment decision based on age if it is reasonably necessary for normal business operations.

Examples of Potential Age Discrimination:

  • Your employer fired you or forced you to retire because of your age.
  • Your employer reduced your compensation or benefits, demoted you, or denied you a promotion because of your age.
  • Your employer prefers to hire and promote younger employees or provides them benefits not available to older employees.
  • Your employer has treated you badly because you opposed or complained about age discrimination or because you assisted in investigations of possible age discrimination.
  • A prospective employer hired a younger job applicant even though you were the more qualified candidate.

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