What should you know about the federal age discrimination law?

What is the federal age discrimination law?

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act or ADEA.

Does the ADEA apply to tribal employers?

There is no single correct answer to this question.  There are arguments that the ADEA applies to tribal employers and there are arguments it does not apply.  Like the federal overtime, union, leave and safety laws, this debate will persist and each tribe should evaluate the options and make a choice which is consistent with the tribe’s risk tolerance.

Does the ADEA apply to employers with a few workers?

The ADEA covers employers with 20 or more employees.

Where may I find the law?

It is codified at Title 29 United States Code Section 633.

What does the ADEA prohibit?

The ADEA prohibits covered employers from discriminating on the basis of age against employees 40 years or older.  Accordingly, employers cannot require workers to retire upon reaching a certain age, targeting older workers for layoffs, giving younger workers more pay or better assignments, or playing into stereotypes by refusing training to older workers because, as the negative stereotype goes, older workers cannot learn anything new.

Does the ADEA prohibit discrimination against whippersnappers?

There is no reverse discrimination under the ADEA therefore applicants and employees younger than 40 years of age have no rights under the ADEA.

How far does the ADEA’s anti-discrimination requirement go?

The ADEA applies to all aspects of employment including hiring, firing, compensation, benefits, job assignments, employee classifications, promotions, layoffs and recalls.

What is harassment under the ADEA?

Harassment against older workers takes a variety of forms including offensive age related jokes or remarks, cartoons which are offensive to older people, and threats, intimidation, and violence.

Are the exceptions to the types of workers who are protected under the ADEA?

There are notable exceptions to the requirements of the ADEA. For example it is not a violation to terminate firefighters when they reach a certain age.

Under the ADEA can employers retaliate against protected workers who raise complaints about age discrimination?

No.

Recommendation:  Determine whether the ADEA applies and if it does promulgate good policy to extend the protections created by the law to your employees.  Moreover, consider defining policy which does not permit discrimination against your seasoned workers or those whippersnappers who, if you treat them right, will be devoted to you for a long time.

About the Author:

Richard McGee is a lawyer in Minneapolis, Minnesota who focuses his practice on gaming, gaming regulation, tribal employment and litigation in tribal, state and federal courts.  Richard has the privilege of working with tribes and tribal organizations on Human Resources matters including training.  Additionally, tribes ask Richard to address specific topics while incorporating the tribe’s related laws and policies into the sessions.  This is an invitation to engage Richard to produce and facilitate training for your tribe.