Individuals who are 40 years of age or older are protected from Age Discrimination by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), a federal statute that applies to employers with 20 or more employees. It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against, harass, or treat an employee or job applicant less favorably because of his or her age. Additionally, an employment policy or practice that applies to all employees or job applicants may be illegal if it has a negative impact on employees or job applicants who are 40 years of age or older and it is not based on a reasonable factor other than age. The ADEA covers all practices related to employment, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Job assignments
- Statements or specifications in job descriptions or advertisements related to age preference or limitations
- Mandatory retirement (in most contexts)
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), a state statute, also prohibits age discrimination in employment against employees and job applicants who are 40 years of age and older. The PHRA applies to employers with four or more employees.
A charge, or complaint, alleging age discrimination may be filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) (How to File an EEOC Charge) or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (“PHRC”) (How to File a PHRC Charge), which is a state agency. The PHRC requires that a charge be filed within 180 days of the alleged unlawful practice, while the EEOC’s deadline is 300 days. These administrative agencies investigate charges of discrimination to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the alleged discrimination occurred.
It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee or applicant who has filed a charge of discrimination, complained about discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination proceeding.
Employees who prove successfully that an adverse employment action was taken against them based on age may obtain remedies including lost wages, fringe benefits, eligibility for reinstatement or front pay, and attorney fees. In the event of willful violations (overt discrimination by the employer), a court may award liquidated damages under the ADEA by doubling the back pay award. The PHRA also allows an award of damages for emotional distress (“pain and suffering”).
Employees and job applicants who work for, or apply for jobs with, employers in the City of Pittsburgh are afforded additional protections against age discrimination by the City of Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations (“CHR”).
Employees and job applicants who work for, or apply for jobs with, employers in Allegheny County are afforded additional protections against age discrimination by the Human Relations Commission Code of Ordinance.
See the following link for more information on the ADEA.