Age Discrimination Criticism Arises as EEOC Works to Revise Standards for Employers

Age discrimination continues to be a hot button issue. Fox News commentator John Stossel stirred controversy in a report on age discrimination in the workplace in which he suggests that the law should not protect older workers from termination based solely on their age. In doing so, Stossel states “we slow down as we age” and “maybe 25 year olds can do it better.”

Of course, federal law protects employees from discrimination based on age. Specifically, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) prohibits age discrimination against employees who are at least 40 years old. Such protection applies to both employees and job seekers in relation to any and all terms and conditions of employment, benefits, promotions, hiring, firing, layoffs, and job assignments.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws, recently voted 3-2 to propose regulations defining “reasonable factors other than age” (RFOA) in the ADEA. The proposals could significantly increase protections for older employees, both in the context of layoffs and firings. Congress and the Supreme Court have held that personnel decisions that affect older workers in greater proportion than younger workers need only be “reasonable” to comply with the ADEA. This is different from the higher standard of “business necessity” used for disparate impact claims based on sex or race under Title VII. As the Supreme Court in Smith v. City of Jackson recognized:

Unlike the business necessity test, which asks whether there are other ways for the employer to achieve its goals that do not result in a disparate impact on a protected class, the reasonableness inquiry includes no such requirement.

The proposed RFOA standards define “reasonable” from the objective standpoint of a hypothetical reasonable employer, and they provide a sample list of factors employers should consider. Such factors, relating to an employer’s practices that impact older workers, include whether: (1) the practice is common to the employer’s business, (2) it directly relates to the employer’s business goals, (3) the employer adequately assessed the impact on older employees, (4) the employer considered other options, and (5) the employer attempted to mitigate any harm to older workers. Much of this proposal appeared in the Federal Register in February 2010. Clarification is still needed as to how each factor will be weighed and when to follow them. The Office of Management and Budget will review the EEOC’s proposal, and the process of reviewing, drafting, and modifying the proposal may continue for months.

The Boston age discrimination attorneys at
The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C. specialize in employment law and exclusively represent employees. If you are a victim of age discrimination, please contact
The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C. through our website or at (617)973-6434 to schedule a confidential consultation.

More Age Discrimination Blog Posts by The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C.:

Age Discrimination Lawsuit Brought by EEOC Against Texas Roadhouse Restaurant Chain, Boston Employment Lawyer Blog (October 22, 2011)
Age Discrimination Misconceptions: A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing, Boston Employment Lawyer Blog (April 1, 2011)
Age Discrimination Mixed Motive Standard Before the Supreme Court, Boston Employment Lawyer Blog (January 1, 2009)