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Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers over 40 from arbitrary age-based discrimination. The law applies to companies with at least 20 employees, labor organizations, and employment agencies. Certain employmee groups, such as executive decision makers, are exempt.

Congress passed the ADEA in 1967 in response to concerns that employers were not hiring qualified older workers because of erroneous and arbitrary policies that favored younger workers. Although age-discrimination can be judtified in certain circumstances, the law generally requires that performance and ability, not age, determine hiring and other employment decisions. 29 U.S.C. §621.

The ADEA prohibits employers from refusing to hire. discharging, or otherwise discriminating against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, because of age. 29 U.S.C. §623(a). Employers cannot reduce wages or otherwise classify workers in ways that negatively affect a worker’s employment status because of age.


The rules requiring informal EEOC attempts to resolve ADEA claims are similar to those under Title VII – there must be an opportunity for good-faith conciliation efforts.

As with Title VII claims, the EEOC has authority over the ADEA and a complaint to the EEOC is a prerequisite to a private lawsuit. However, unlike Title VII, the ADEA does not require that the employee receive a “right to sue” letter prior to commencing an action.

This difference has a significant impact on the statute of limitations for bringing an ADEA claim. Both EEOC and Private suits must be commence within the applicable limitations period.

State courts have concurrent jurisdiction with federal courts over ADEA suits, although state court actions may be subject to removal to federal court. (Baldwin v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 667 F.2d 458 (5th Cir. 1982).


Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA)

California’s Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA) offers broad protection against age-based discrimination.





To prove an age discrimination claim under the FEHA, the employee must demonstrate:

(1) at least 40 years of age;

(2) performing job duties satisfactorily;

(3) discharged; and

(4) discharged in favor of a younger employee with equal or inferior qualifications.

Once the employee makes this showing, then the employer must articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the termination.

See Schechner, et al. v. KPIX-TV 11-15294  (9th Cir., May 29, 2012).