Fifty years after the enactment of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Equal Employment Opoportunity Commission (EEOC) is focusing on the challenges of age discriminaiton for the future. The EEOC is concerned the Courts have been limiting the relevence of the ADEA, undermining its impact.
Signed in December 1967, the ADEA makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers over the age of 40. But according to Victoria Lipnic, EEOC acting chair, there are ambiguities in the ADEAs text, weakening safeguards for older workers and other protected groups under Title VII, which prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or nationality. For example, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida recently ruled older job applicants cannot sue for impact discrcimination under ADEA as they are not employees, despite noting explicit language in Title VII allows applicants to sue.
In another example, a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision made it more challenging for workers to prove an ADEA claim versus a Title VII. The ruling held that while alleging a Title VII claim, workers must only show protected characteristics were causal in an adverse action; an ADEA claimant must prove age was a factor.
These and other decisions have led the EEOC to address concerns age discrimination faces unique barriers. With more older workers in the workforce, the EEOC’s focus on addressing the ADEA textual ambiguities may lead to Congressional Involvement.
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