Age-based legal protections are provided by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which provides rights to those forty and over regarding discriminatory activities by employers. These protections are provided not only to current employees, but also extend to those applying for jobs.
The rights provided by the ADEA to workers and applicants prevent employers from doing numerous activities that would be considered discriminatory. These include not listing age limitations on job advertisements unless age is a legitimate qualification based on business necessity. Additionally, employers cannot reduce insurance benefits for older employees, target older employees during a reduction in force, or require older employees to take early retirement.
Those alleging age discrimination against an employer are also protected from further discrimination based on their testimony or filing of a claim. When an employee is asked by their employer to waive their ADEA rights, such as for severance reasons, the employee is granted additional protections under the act. The waiver must be signed voluntarily and knowingly by the employee. Such signing is present if the waiver was understandable to the employee and provided to them in writing, call out their ADEA rights, not request waiver of any future rights, encourage the employee to seek the advise of legal counsel before signing, as well as provide the employee 21 days or more to sign the agreement, and an additional seven days to terminate the waiver.
Although age discrimination claims are at times difficult to prove, employees forty and older should be aware of the protections afforded to them by the ADEA. The act provides requirements that employers must abide by and a failure to do so may allow an employee to file a claim to assert their rights.
Source: EEOC.gov, "Age Discrimination," accessed on Mar. 1, 2015