What is the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA)?

Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634 (“ADEA”), it is unlawful for an employer to, among other things, discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual concerning his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s age. Any employee over 40 is eligible to bring a claim for age discrimination if the employer employs at least 20 employees.  The employee must file an EEOC charge to exhaust their administrative remedies before filing a federal lawsuit alleging a violation of the ADEA.

What must a plaintiff prove to prevail on a claim under the ADEA?

Different types of age-based claims (i.e., failure to hire, failure to promote, discharge, harassment) require different proof structures.  To establish a prima facie case of unlawful termination based on age under the ADEA, a complainant must be able to show the following:

  1. They are over 40;
  2. They were terminated;
  3. At the time of the termination, they were performing the job at a level that met the employer’s legitimate job expectations; and
  4. They were replaced by a substantially younger worker who was similarly qualified or less qualified.

For more information, see, e.g., Dugan v. Albemarle County School Board, 293 F.3d 716, 720-21 (4th Cir. 2002); Hill v. Lockheed Martin Logistics Management, Inc., 354 F.3d 277, 285 (4th Cir. 2004); EEOC v. Clay Printing Company, 955 F.2d 936, 941 (4th Cir. 1992).

Even if an employee can satisfy the criteria above, the employer can still prevail if it can show that the termination was due to a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason. 

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The information herein is not legal advice. The information is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter discussed.  The above is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship.