Age Discrimination

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is one of several federal labor laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace. The ADEA, as its name implies, prohibits employers from firing, refusing to hire, or otherwise discriminating against employees because of their age. But the ADEA doesn’t protect everyone from discrimination based on age—only employees who are 40 years old or older. Fortunately for younger folks, some states do offer broader protection against age discrimination.

Why the ADEA Protects Only Employees Age 40 and Up

Historically, age discrimination has disproportionately affected seniors and middle-aged people more than any other group. When the ADEA was enacted back in 1967, Congress assumed that companies might refuse to hire or promote older workers in favor of younger ones. The legislature believed that companies would prefer to hire younger people because they were likely to have more energy and stamina than their older counterparts. Moreover, employers might prefer younger employees because they have the potential to offer them many more years of service.

Only more recently has age bias against younger employees become more prevalent in the workplace. Time will tell whether the labor laws will be amended to reflect this change.

What States Protect Younger Employees?

Some states do go further than the ADEA and extend protection against age discrimination to all employees and to employers with fewer than 20 employees. Here is a list of U.S. states and territories with requirements that are different from those in the ADEA:

  • Alaska: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 1 employee
  • Connecticut: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 3 employees
  • D.C.: Protects employees aged 18 to 65; applies to companies with at least 1 employee
  • Florida: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 15 employees
  • Hawaii: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 1 employee
  • Indiana: Protects employees age 40 to 75; applies to companies with at least 6 employees
  • Iowa: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 4 employees
  • Kansas: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 4 employees
  • Maryland: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 15 employees
  • Michigan: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 1 employee
  • Minnesota: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 1 employee
  • Mississippi: No age limit; applies to only state employees
  • Missouri: Protects employees age 40 to 70; applies to companies with at least 6 employees
  • Montana: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 1 employee
  • Nevada: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 15 employees
  • New Hampshire: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 6 employees
  • New Jersey: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 1 employee
  • New Mexico: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 4 employees
  • New York: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 4 employees
  • North Carolina: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 15 employees
  • Ohio: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 4 employees
  • Oklahoma: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 1 employee
  • Oregon: Protects employees 18 and older; applies to companies with at least 1 employee
  • Puerto Rico: Protects employees of working age or older; applies to companies with at least 1 employee
  • Texas: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 15 employees
  • Vermont: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 1 employee
  • Virgin Islands: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 1 employee
  • Washington: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 8 employees
  • Wisconsin: No age limit; applies to companies with at least 2 employees

For more information on federal and state labor laws, including labor law poster requirements relating to anti-discrimination laws, check out the Poster Compliance Center website.