Age Discrimination Article

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits covered employers of 20 or more employees from discriminating against employees or applicants 40 years of age or older with regard to any aspect of employment such as hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. Discrimination may also occur when the victim and the perpetrator are both over the age of 40.

Examples of Discrimination

  • Pressuring an older employee to retire
  • Firing an older employee to keep a younger lower paid employee
  • Laying off a disproportionate number of older employees
  • Not hiring an older individual to seek a significantly younger candidate
  • Failing to promote an employee due to age
  • Assigning older employees to less-desirable work
  • Automatically offering training opportunities to significantly younger employees
  • Assigning challenging work projects to younger employees
  • Undermining managerial authority or span of control
  • Failing to issue pay raises, bonuses, or promotions to older employees

Hostile Work Environment (Harassment)

The ADEA also prohibits the harassment of an employee due to age.  Harassment is the unwelcome treatment of an employee due to age that is frequent or severe enough to alter working conditions and create a demeaning or abusive atmosphere (hostile work environment).  It is critical that you notify management of the harassment.  If possible, do so in writing and save a copy for documentation.  Once an employer knows about the harassment, it is obligated to take effective action to stop it.

This unlawful conduct may include the use of slurs or name-calling, workplace graffiti, threats, inappropriate jokes or gestures, isolation, exclusion, work interference, undermining of authority, humiliation, or other mistreatment.  The harasser may be a supervisor, co-worker, contractor, or client.  The harasser may be of a similar age as well.


It is also unlawful to punish an employee for complaining to the employer about being discriminated against due to age or opposing age discrimination against another employee.  The ADEA further prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for filing an EEOC discrimination charge, testifying or participating in an investigation about discrimination, assisting in an EEOC proceeding or lawsuit, or opposing employment practices that an employee reasonably believes discriminate against another individual in violation of the law.

Retaliation includes adverse actions such as demotions, disciplinary actions, terminations, and other forms of punishment that tend to dissuade employees from complaining about discrimination. For more information about legally protected activities and examples of unlawful retaliation, see Retaliation page.

Under the ADEA, private sector employees must file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 calendar days of a discriminatory action. You will forfeit important legal rights if you do not file a timely charge with the EEOC. If you’ve already missed a deadline, call to discuss your options.

In addition to federal law, the Wrongful Discharge Against Public Policy (WDPP) law of North Carolina prohibits covered employers from firing an employee due to age.  Because the deadline for filing a WDPP claim has fluctuated in recent years, it is recommended that claims be filed without delay.  (See Wrongful Termination page)

If you’ve been subjected to age discrimination, contact Rich Daugherty.  Whether your employment has been wrongfully terminated, you’re in fear of losing your job unlawfully, or you’re stuck in an untenable situation, contact Rich.

In addition to litigating cases, Rich negotiates confidential severance agreements and executive exit agreements favorable to his clients.

Rich offers a one-on-one relationship with his clients. He will stand by your side every step of the way to resolve your case fairly.

Rich represents clients from across North Carolina, including Raleigh, Durham, Wilmington, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, and more. He is available to meet with prospective clients outside of Chapel Hill when circumstances permit. Evening appointments are also available.

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