A final rule issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission addresses prohibited policies and practices relating to older workers under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), a federal law that applies generally to private employers with 20 or more employees.
Purpose of the ADEA
The ADEA prohibits employment discrimination against people who are 40 years of age or older.
In addition to intentional discrimination, the ADEA prohibits practices that, although neutral on their face, have the effect of harming older workers more than younger workers, unless the employer can show that the practice is based on a reasonable factor other than age.
The final rule explains the meaning of the reasonable factor other than age defense.
Final Rule Emphasizes Need for Individual Review
According to the final rule, an employment practice is based on a reasonable factor other than age when it was reasonably designed and administered to achieve a legitimate business purpose in light of the circumstances, including its potential harm to older workers.
The rule emphasizes the need for an individualized review of the facts and circumstances of a particular situation, and includes a list of considerations for assessing reasonableness.
Generally, an employer would be required to prove that an employment practice is based on a reasonable factor other than age only after an employee has identified a specific policy or practice, and established that the practice harmed older workers substantially more than younger workers.