Finding a job is challenging enough without having to worry about being discriminated against because of age. The age discrimination act forbids employers in certain categories from discriminating against applicants (or employees) who are over the age of 40. There are exclusions to this law.
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Age Discrimination Rules
For those who are over 40, applying for a new job can be very intimidating. It is not uncommon to walk into an office and see a mass of younger people applying for the same job. While this is very disheartening, age discrimination is illegal (even if it's hard to prove). Employers are not allowed to request specific age groups apply for jobs, they are not allowed to ask for an age on a job application and they are not allowed to specifically discriminate based on age alone when applicants are over the age of 40. This does leave the question many ask "Can I be asked my age at a job interview?" In spite of the laws, there are circumstances where an employer can ask about your age and they are always allowed to ask if you are over the age of 18.
According to The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC) age discrimination prohibits employers from refusing to hire someone over the age of 40 based solely on their age. However, it does allow the employer to ask about your age, specifically they state:
"Pre-Employment Inquiries - The ADEA does not specifically prohibit an employer from asking an applicant’s age or date of birth. However, because such inquiries may deter older workers from applying for employment or may otherwise indicate possible intent to discriminate based on age, requests for age information will be closely scrutinized to make sure that the inquiry was made for a lawful purpose, rather than for a purpose prohibited by the ADEA." Since interviews are categorized as "pre-employment" employers are allowed to ask (though applicants have the right to refuse to provide the information).
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Defining Age Discrimination
At first glance, it may seem that age discrimination is simple to prove. However, there are specific rules under which age discrimination may apply. First, an employer must have more than twenty (20) employees, and these employees must work a minimum of at least twenty weeks out of a single year. Independent contractors are not included in this equation since they are not considered employees.
For anyone who is applying for a job and asking "Can I be asked my age at a job interview?," the simple answer is yes, though the end answer may be more complicated. If a company has less than twenty employees, the answer is yes, if the company intends to make a decision on hiring someone based on age, the answer is not as simple. While an employer may elect to hire someone over the age of 40 versus under the age of 40, the person under the age of 40 is not protected under the laws against age discrimination. It is also important to note that some states have even more stringent laws regarding age discrimination.
While proving age discrimination may not be easy, if an applicant over the age of 40 is asked their age during an interview and subsequently not hired, they may want to contact an attorney who specializes in employment law. The attorney should be able to ascertain if it is legally advisable to pursue a discriminatory employment suit.