What is Age Discrimination in the Workplace? - Definition, Cases & Examples

What is Age Discrimination in the Workplace? - Definition, Cases & Examples
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  • 0:00 Definition
  • 0:35 ADEA of 1967
  • 1:07 Landmark Case of Age…
  • 1:51 Age Discrimination Example
  • 2:58 Effects of Age Discrimination
  • 3:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Paul Mckinney

Paul has been in higher education for 17 years. He has a master's degree and is earning his PhD in Community College Leadership.

Age discrimination in the workplace happens when a person's age is unfairly used as a factor in his or her employment. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 was enacted to protect older workers from this type of discrimination.


Age discrimination in the workplace is the practice of letting a person's age unfairly become a factor when deciding who receives a new job, promotion, or other job benefits. Decisions about terminating employees also cannot be solely based on their age. Age discrimination commonly affects older workers who feel they have been discriminated against in favor of younger workers, but there have also been cases involving younger workers being displaced by older workers.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 makes it unlawful for organizations with 20 or more employees to base employment decisions, like pay, benefits, and promotions, on a person's age. Employers should focus on employee skills and talent. The ADEA covers employees of 40 or more years of age. Note that it does not protect young workers from age discrimination.

Landmark Case of Age Discrimination

The 1985 case, Western Air Lines v. Criswell, was a landmark case concerning age discrimination. It revolved around a maximum age limit as a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) for flight engineers. A BFOQ can override the ADEA's regulation on age discrimination. Western Air Lines required flight engineers to retire at age 60 to ensure public safety. The Supreme Court determined that an employer cannot set maximum age without solid proof that public safety would be substantially affected by allowing an individual above a certain age to work.

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