The Federal Government in 1964 enacted Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which profoundly changed working life in the United States. Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, sex, national origin and religion. This statute provides a strong mechanism for minorities and women to challenge impediments that severely hinder equal opportunities throughout society and working life in this country. Most, if not all, states have adopted similar civil rights legislation since or before the enactment of Title VII.
Three years later, in 1967, the federal government stepped in to address discriminatory practices with respect to older workers by passing the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Generally, the ADEA prohibits an employer from refusing to hire, discharging or otherwise discriminating against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of age.
The ADEA's substantive provisions with respect to the prohibition against age discrimination parallel the anti-discriminatory provisions of Title VII. The aims are the same--the elimination of discrimination from the workplace.
Older doesn't mean elderly
"Older employees," as defined by the ADEA, are those ages 40 and above. Employers are prohibited from say, giving preference to a younger job applicant over an older applicant if both are equally qualified. The purpose of this legislation is to protect older workers from "discriminatory practices."
In a "refusal to hire case," (an employee claims that he/she wasn't hired because of age), the plaintiff (the person making the complaint) must show both that he/she was qualified for the position and applied for a position that the employer sought to fill. There are exceptions, where a plaintiff has some credible direct evidence of discrimination, but such situations are rare. The plaintiff, however, has the ultimate burden to persuade the decision-maker (jury or Court) that the...