Employers: Recent 7th Circuit Ruling on Age Discrimination

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is supposed to protect older workers from discrimination based on their age. But a recent 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision may have significantly limited its application.

The court held that the ADEA doesn’t extend to outside job applicants who claim they have been victimized by disparate-impact discrimination. Internal job applicants are still covered by the ADEA’s provisions.

The case involved a 58-year-old legal professional who was passed over for a promotion in favor of a younger applicant with less experience. The employment posting sought applicants with “3 to 7 years (no more than 7 years) of relevant legal experience.” The company ultimately hired a 29-year-old applicant who met the requirement.

Employers can be liable for enacting policies and procedures that have a discriminatory effect on employees or applicants in a protected class, even if the discrimination is unintentional. But the court reached the decision by comparing the ADEA’s language to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, finding that the omission of “applicants” from the ADEA was fatal to the plaintiff’s claims.

Despite the court’s decision, engaging in age discrimination probably isn’t the best path forward. Attorneys at Jones Obenchain, LLP can review your company’s employment and hiring practices, and advise as to best practices.