The Higgins firm represents people in Tennessee who have been discriminated against by their employers for protected reasons. Recently, we are seeing many more age discrimination claims. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §621 et seq. (ADEA) was enacted to protect people from being discriminated against in the workplace solely based upon their age. The law protects against the discrimination of people over 40 years of age and broadly prohibits discriminating in hiring, retaining, paying and providing benefit programs. However, the law is not a complete ban on discrimination of all sorts and there are several clearly defined exceptions to the law. In other words, there are scenarios where it is permissible to discriminate based upon age; however, the employer must be able to show that the employment falls into one of the following specific exceptions:
1. When age is a bona fide requirement of the position. If it is a reasonable requirement that the employee be of a certain age, like a model for teen clothing, the employer has the discretion to use a young person in that position and can logically discriminate against older workers.
2. When there are reasonable requirements other than age alone. When the nature of the work is physically very demanding, the ADEA does not apply. In other words, the law will not require you to consider employees that cannot do the job.
3. State and local governments are allowed to enforce mandatory retirement ages for policemen and firefighters.
4. Seniority based retirement funds, pension plans or insurance benefits are allowed under the ADEA. The effect of these plans may be to treat some individuals differently than other same-aged employees because the individuals have worked for the company longer.
5. Generally high policy-making positions and executives can be held to a retirement age if they have worked in the same position for over two years and have a compensation plan in place that will pay them over $44,000.00 at retirement.
6. Highly skilled positions that require a significant apprenticeship program are generally exempt from the law. The law will not require a company to hire a person over forty and invest a substantial period of time in training the employee to do a job only to realize a short period of employment after that type of investment on the company’s part.
While these exceptions have been carved out to make the law fair, there are many employers who are unwilling to follow the guidelines set out by the ADEA. Age discrimination is a significant problem because it hurts people who already have a difficult transition period into new employment. At the Higgins firm, we take seriously the charges of age discrimination and represent individuals who have been discriminated against. The ADEA is a federal law and most States, including Tennessee, have corresponding laws that apply to help protect against age discrimination.