With the economy in a slump, older persons have had a more difficult time returning to and staying in the workplace. This, of course, has brought about a lot of questions regarding age discrimination laws and just when they apply.
Though some age discrimination laws do cover activities outside the workplace, such as in the provision of services, because employment discrimination is such a hot topic, we're going to focus on those laws that impact employees and job applicants.
Age discrimination in the workplace is governed by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) at the federal level. States, at the very minimum, must comply with this legislation, but are free to impose stricter requirements on local employers.
The most important part of the ADEA is the age requirement.
Under federal law, you are only protected from age discrimination if you are aged 40 or above.
What this means is that, under federal law, as an employee or job applicant under 40 years of age, you are not entitled to legal protection from unfair treatment based on your age.
However, depending on where you live, you may still be entitled to some protections if you are younger than 40.
For instance, age discrimination laws in New Jersey protect persons as young as 18.
Unfortunately, the lower age threshold is not incredibly common. Even so, you should be sure to specifically look into local age discrimination laws if you think that your age was the basis of an adverse employment decision.