Ohio employers and employees alike often struggle to understand the concept of “age discrimination.” They wonder whether it means an employer can never take someone’s age into account in making a hiring decision, or whether you can never consider a person’s natural decline in physical fitness or mental acuity from aging in selecting workers to downsize. In this blog post, we offer a high-level overview of what age discrimination in Ohio is, and what it isn’t.
What The Law Says About Age Discrimination
Two bodies of law, federal and state, provide the contours of age discrimination employment law in Ohio. These laws, which overlap somewhat, apply only to discrimination against workers age 40 or older. In other words, generally speaking in Ohio, there is no legal prohibition on “age discrimination” against a worker under 40. These laws also generally do not cover age discrimination in the hiring and firing of law enforcement and public safety officers, or in how unions and other labor organizations enforce seniority-based work rules.
The principal federal law on age discrimination is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which makes it unlawful for all employers with more than 20 employees:
(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s age;
(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s age; or
(3) to reduce the wage rate of any employee in order to comply with this chapter.
The principal Ohio state law on age discrimination in employment is the Ohio civil rights statute. In a sense, this statute is broader in its protections than the ADEA because it applies to all employers in Ohio with more than 4 employees. Like the ADEA, the Ohio statute also makes it illegal for “any employer, because of the … age … of any person, to discharge without just cause, to refuse to hire, or otherwise to discriminate against that person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment.”
Ohio courts generally analyze claims made under both statutes according to the same basic standards. However, there are procedural differences in how and when these laws apply that make consulting an experienced employment law attorney very important whenever a claim of age discrimination arises.
Practical Applications of Age Discrimination Law
If the language of the statutes above seems quite broad, it is because federal and Ohio lawmakers consider age discrimination to be an unjust burden on older workers. Whether a specific action constitutes age discrimination, however, can be a complicated determination.
Here are some examples of when the laws do and do not apply:
- If an employer rejects all job applicants over age 50 on the basis of their age alone, then that likely constitutes illegal age discrimination.
- If an employer reassigns an older worker to a less physically strenuous task because of the worker’s declining physical health, then that likely does not constitute age discrimination even if the worker’s declining condition is age-related.
- A workplace policy of inviting only younger employees to work-related events, effectively excluding those over 40, likely constitutes illegal age discrimination.
- A workplace that imposes a mandatory retirement age because of federal or state regulations does not engage in age discrimination.
These are just a few examples. The circumstances of a suspected incident of age discrimination tend to be highly fact-specific. The best way to evaluate whether an action does, or does not, constitute illegal age discrimination in Ohio is to consult with an experienced Ohio employment lawyer.
Skilled, Sophisticated Ohio Employment Attorneys
At Dworken & Bernstein, we represent employers and employees in a wide range of employment-related matters, including the evaluation and litigation of age discrimination claims. If you have questions about how the age discrimination laws apply to you, then contact our team today to schedule a free consultation.
The information presented in this post is not legal advice and does not form a lawyer/client relationship. Laws and circumstances can differ and change.
Please contact us for a personal review of your situation