Federal Law and Some State Laws Prohibit Discrimination of Employees Based on Their Age. Federal Law Covers Employees Over the Age of Forty (40).
As the "baby boom" generation moves past the age of forty, more and more employees are going to fall under the coverage of the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and related state laws. Employers must take care that downsizing, layoffs, employee benefit plans, and individual discipline and terminations do not violate the terms of the ADEA or related state law provisions.
Older workers higher salaries and benefits are a tempting target for corporate cost cutters. Measures such as downsizing and layoffs (reductions in force) often fall heavily on older workers, whether unintentionally or intentionally. Unless employers take care to avoid improperly affecting older workers, they could be liable under the ADEA. The Act applies equally to workers who remain employed by employers.
Employees have rights in hiring, promotions, and retention. Employers should not assume that older workers are unable to "keep up with the times." Employers may require qualifications which would tend to favor younger workers, such as computer skills and knowledge, but should not assume that older workers cannot be trained or just plain do not have the required knowledge. All workers should receive the same training and access to continuing education to help keep them "up with the times."
Federal law is the standard for age discrimination. Many state laws are patterned after the Federal law. This site answers frequently asked questions using Federal law--state laws may vary.