Most workers aged 40 and over in New York and throughout the country are protected against age discrimination by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The ADEA applies to federal, state and local governments, labor organizations, employment agencies and private employers that have at least 20 employees. It does not just protect against workplace harassment on the basis of age but also protects against demotion or termination.
Older New York residents have their work cut out for them when they seek employment. A survey of job seekers conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons identified age discrimination as their top concern by a wide margin. According to survey results, 51 percent of respondents 50 years of age and older expressed worry about age limiting their ability to land a job. Unemployment came in second but not close at 25 percent.
Private sector employers in New York and around the country with 20 or more workers must follow the provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. However, courts have disagreed on whether or not the 20-employee threshold should apply to state agencies like police and fire departments. A federal appeals court ruled on June 19 that the 1967 law covered public employers regardless of the size of their payrolls. An attorney representing the Arizona fire department involved said that the Supreme Court will likely be called upon to resolve the matter.
A former professor at Long Island University filed an age discrimination complaint with the Division of Human Rights after he was terminated from his long-held position. The 87-year-old man claims that he and two other elderly professors were fired by LIU without explanation. All three professors were not informed that they were being let go by the university until they had arrived on campus to start a new term in January 2014.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act forbids discriminating against a person over 40 based on his or her age in New York and across the country. The act does not prevent the employer from favoring an older employee over a younger one, even if both are over 40, however.
New York has specific rules that employers must follow to avoid claims of harassment. Additionally, various federal statutes prohibit this type of behavior.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, age discrimination in New York occurs when someone, either an applicant or employee, is treated differently than others because of their age. However, according to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, it is only considered to be illegal when the individual in question is 40 years of age or older.
Most people in Queens know that young people, especially college graduates, are having trouble finding jobs. There are numerous reports of people working for minimum wage or in positions that do not require a college degree. But that is not the only group affected by the slowly recovering economy. Older workers are also facing unemployment and they are having a difficult time finding new jobs. For some, it is a matter of age discrimination.
Though many of the stories that we have covered are about workplace discrimination, many people don't think about discriminating against people over 40 years old. Age discrimination is, unfortunately, just another example of employers violating their employees' rights. Any worker, younger than or 40 and older should be judged on their ability to do a job, not on whether they are close to retirement, whether they will accept less pay for the same work, or even if they are more or less likely to incur health care coverage. Sadly, that is not always the case.