We don’t hear much about age discrimination in the news, but discrimination against older workers happens far too often. According to a 2018 report by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “more than 6 in 10 workers age 45 and older say they have seen or experienced discrimination based on age in the workplace. Of those, 90 percent say it is somewhat or very common, according to a 2017 survey. In another survey in 2015, more than 3 of 4 older workers said their age was an obstacle to finding a job.”
In hard times, employers may use an economic downturn or a decrease in revenue to lay off older workers in favor of younger workers with lower salaries.
Luckily, there are remedies for discrimination based solely on age. Both federal and Colorado law offer protections from discrimination for people in the workplace based on a person’s age . The Age Discrimination at Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law protecting employees age 40 and older from age discrimination. Under state law, the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act (CADA) protects all Colorado workers from discrimination based on race, color, religion, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, sexual orientation, and physical or mental disability. See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-401 (2016).
Colorado Anti-discrimination Act
Once called the Colorado Employment Practices Act, CADA prohibits this type of discrimination for Colorado workers over 40. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-401 (2016). The Act applies to all employers in Colorado, regardless of size.
Age Discrimination at Employment Act
The Age Discrimination at Employment Act (ADEA) is a federal law prohibiting discrimination against people 40 and older. While it prohibits many of the same age-based acts as Colorado’s law, the federal law does not apply to all of the same employers. The ADEA applies to private employers, federal, state, local governments, labor organizations, and employment agencies. However, federal law only covers private employers that employ 20 or more people for 20 or more weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. The law may apply to some employers with fewer than 20 employees if they acted in a joint enterprise with a parent company, subsidiary, or affiliate. The companies must employ 20 or more employees combined.
Prohibited Age-Discrimination Practices
The most common ADEA and CADA age discrimination claims typically involve discriminatory hiring, firing, layoffs, demotions, and promotions. Under both the ADEA and the Colorado Anti-discrimination Act, employers cannot:
- Refuse to hire or promote someone based solely on their age;
- Provide unequal pay for the same work because of an employee’s age;
- Discharge, harass, or discipline a worker because of their age;
- Retaliate against an employee for complaining about age discrimination or participating in an investigation of age discrimination;
- Ask a job applicant’s age unless it’s a legitimate occupational requirement; or
- Publish an ad for employment with an age-based limitation unless it’s a legitimate occupational qualification.
The Colorado Civil Right Commission regulations also prohibit using terms like “retired,” “young person,” or “recent college graduate” in employment ads. See 3 Code Colo. Regs. § 708-1, Rule 40.2.
Older Workers Benefit Protection Act
The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act “OWBPA” is an amendment to the ADEA that explicitly protects workers over 40 concerning layoffs. The OWBPA prohibits employers from:
- Using an employee’s age as grounds for termination;
- Targeting older workers for reductions in force; and
- Forcing older employees to sign legal waivers of age discrimination claims without consideration.
The OWBPA applies to layoffs, reductions in force, early retirement programs, exit incentive plans, and other voluntary departures.
Age Discrimination Claims
If you believe your employer has discriminated against you based on your age, you can file a complaint with either the EEOC or the Colorado Civil Rights Division (CCRD). The two agencies share information and work cooperatively to investigate complaints. If your employer is not covered under the federal ADEA because it has fewer than 20 employees, you should file with the CCRD. We often recommend filing first with the CCRD because the Colorado law covers employers of all sizes. The CCRD can typically act more quickly on a state age-discrimination claim.
To preserve your claim under state law, you must file with the CCRD within 6 months of the date you believe your employer discriminated against you. To preserve your claim under federal law, you must file with the EEOC or the CCRD within 300 days of the date you believe that your employer discriminated against you. To ensure you don’t miss deadlines for any possible remedy, you should consult an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible.
Denver Age Discrimination Attorneys
Livelihood Law has extensive experience representing clients that have been discriminated against due to their age in the workplace. We are here to make sure that your rights are protected.
Navigating the ins and outs of a discrimination case based on age can be extremely difficult to do without legal counsel. Livelihood law is here to help. Contact us today to find out what your options are and to protect your rights.