Anti-discrimination laws have long protected employees over the age of 40 in Texas and across the United States. However, a new decision released by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals raises questions on whether or not those protections are extended to job applicants as well.
In the recently decided case, a 58-year-old man submitted an application to a large medical device company for a legal role. The man was ultimately never given an interview. He later learned that the position went to a 29-year-old man with fewer qualifications. This led the man to file an age discrimination lawsuit alleging a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). His lawsuit alleged that the discrimination had a disparate impact on his career. After an appeal from the trial court, the 7th Circuit disagreed, citing the “plain language” of the ADEA. According to the court, Congress explicitly intended the protections of the ADEA to apply only to current employees and not prospective hires.
This decision conflicts with the law in other jurisdictions and runs counter to the best practices recommended to most companies regarding their hiring practices. It is worth noting that the decision was rendered by a court of appeals, meaning it only applies to the states within the 7th Circuit. Until the Supreme Court takes this case up, the standard set in this case will not apply to all 50 states.
Although the ruling may be considered a setback, the ADEA is still designed to defend workers over the age of 40 from being treated differently than their younger counterparts. Any person over the age of 40 that has been a victim of age discrimination could have a valid claim under the ADEA. An experienced employment law attorney may be able to help that individual obtain compensation for the damages they have suffered due to age discrimination.