As baby boomers age and the economy struggles to recover, the subject of age discrimination is being discussed more frequently than ever before. Everyone knows if an individual’s employment is subject to wrongful termination based solely on age, it would constitute age discrimination. But there are many other situations in which age discrimination can occur.
When an employer is seeking a new employee, it is unlawful for her to directly ask the age of the prospective employee or to ask questions to help her ascertain the interviewee’s age. While this is fairly common knowledge, what you may not know is that it is also illegal for an employment agency to use age as a basis for referring potential employees to a company. Some companies try to get around the age discrimination issue by having an employment agency do the screening for them. In a case involving Hollywood TV writers over 40, talent agencies were included as defendants because they were not recommending older writers to networks and studios for sitcoms or dramas. In 2010, the case was settled when the defendants agreed to pay $70 million to thousands of writers whose careers were damaged by this discrimination.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 also pertains to unions. Unions may not discriminate against potential members, nor may they use age as a basis for referring individuals for employment. A union may also be liable if it fails to act on an employer’s discrimination against an employee.
An individual can be discriminated against for youth as well. Even though he may be qualified as far as experience and education, a younger applicant may be passed over for a supervisory role because the interviewer incorrectly thinks he will be less authoritative and not respected by older employees. Young female applicants may also be wrongfully denied employment if the prospective employer thinks she will need maternity leave or may decide to quit working after having a child.