Age Discrimination Laws Explained

Most of the protection that Texas employees have from age discrimination is regulated by the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. However while there are some relevant state laws dealing with the issue, we'll focus on what makes Texas law particularly different. Additionally we'll explain what is meant by age discrimination, what your rights are and what to do if you think you are the victim of age discrimination.

Table of Contents

History and Legal Protections

As the Disengagement Theory of Aging proposes, separation from the workforce can greatly exacerbate the effects of aging on one’s biology and psychology. This would seem to provide a solid grounding for continued employment throughout the adult lifecycle. Unfortunately, many seniors are unlawfully prevented from finding or keeping employment as companies remove them for younger and cheaper replacements.

In 1967, the Federal Government first attempted to protect older employees from discrimination with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (29 U.S.C. 621 et seq). However, that bill contained an important caveat that “age-based reductions in employee benefit plans are justified by significant cost considerations.” However, that bill immediately ran into legal challenges due to its vagueness and unclear application. Within two years of the bill’s passage, a challenge came in the case of Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio v. Betts.

In this case, the plaintiff argued that the loophole from the 1967 act created a “subterfuge” whereby employers could completely invalidate the entire purpose of the 1967 act. The Circuit Courts agreed with the plaintiff and that then rendered the 1967 act essentially useless. Congress then felt they had to act immediately and thus we arrived at the much tighter Age Discrimination Act of 1975 which still stands to this day. The act is patrolled and regulated by the Civil Rights Center.

What is Illegal

The bill itself is fairly straightforward about the purpose of the bill and what constitutes age discrimination. However, the problem is that the language, while well-meaning, is rather vague (see the quote below).

It is therefore the purpose of this chapter to promote employment of older persons based on their ability rather than age; to prohibit arbitrary age discrimination in employment; to help employers and workers find ways of meeting problems arising from the impact of age on employment.

Statements of Findings and Purpose

In plain English, the law only provides age discrimination protections to workers over the age of 40. Furthermore, a single line putting down an older worker is not sufficient grounds for a claim of age discrimination. While distasteful, for a claim to have merit you must be able to prove that the firing or mistreatment was due to your age and not your ability to perform the job.

How To Prove It

First, it may go without saying but if you suspect that you are the victim of age discrimination then make sure that you are documenting every electronic communication from your employer. Texas is a one-party state and therefore you are allowed to record others without their permission so long as you do not upload it online.

Additionally, there’s a second, more technical, way companies can be caught systematically terminating older employees. If your company is going through a period of workforce reduction, then they are required to provide age-related data on who is being terminated. If they do not keep and provide that data upon request, then they are in violation of the law. If the employer does provide that data then it is possible to see whether or not there is a trend in regards to the firing of older employees.

What To Do If You’re A Victim of Age Discrimination

If you’ve read everything we’ve written here and still believe you have a good case against your employer for discrimination then you’re in the right place. First and foremost, they may be hated but you can always talk to a Texas attorney about your case. Though an attorney who specializes in workplace discrimination is ideal, Texas does not have specialization certifications for its attorneys. Restated, if you know someone that is certified by the Bar of Texas as an attorney, they can help you with your case. An avenue you might want to explore before bringing a complaint against your employer because of fears of retaliation.

Retaliation By Companies

It is important to know that businesses are not allowed to retaliate against employees who make a complaint about age discrimination in the workplace. However do note, that doesn’t mean your employer won’t make it very difficult to do your job or negatively impact your career, they just aren’t allowed to fire you for it.

Perhaps that’s not the most relieving thing one might want to hear when considering filing an age discrimination complaint against their employer, but do know that the law protects employees from retaliation by their employer.

Age Discrimination in the Application Process

In 1998, the Workforce Investment Act was passed that officially made it illegal to exclude certain types of applicants based on immutable features. Those features included other forms of discrimination such as race, sex, and national origin, however, it also included age. Even if the company is not your employer, but rather your potential employer, you’re still protected against age-based discrimination. However, discrimination at the hiring state can be particularly difficult to prove to the satisfaction of the court.

Age Discrimination and Private Companies

A question that keeps re-occurring is whether or not Private Companies are required to follow the same laws as public or state-run enterprises. The answer is yes but there are some caveats. Remember that State employers often have more documents visible to the public (via either FOIA requests or just as standard operating procedures) than the average private company. Therefore if an anti-aging trend is emerging in a state-run institution then it will likely be easier to catch and prove to the satisfaction of a court.