Age Discrimination

Background

Over the past 50 years, older workers have become a more significant part of the nation’s workforce. Nevertheless, age discrimination has persisted. Older workers have more trouble finding work than their younger counterparts. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal employment discrimination laws. In 2019, it received more than 15,000 age discrimination complaints. Women, African Americans, Asians, and workers age 65 and older were especially affected.

However, enforcement is a significant issue due to a lack of resources at the EEOC. In addition, Supreme Court decisions have severely hampered the ability of workers to prove discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (see also Employment Discrimination Against Older Workers).

Age discrimination is also unlawful in many other contexts. The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits age discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal assistance. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act and Truth in Lending Act prohibit discrimination based on age in granting credit, including mortgages. In addition, the Fair Housing Act protects older adults with disabilities from discrimination in the sale or rental of housing. Another housing statute recognizes the physical and mental benefits of pets to older adults. It prohibits unreasonable rules barring pets in housing that receives federal assistance.

Large, complex data sets and algorithms are increasingly informing consequential decisions. Consequential decisions include those that affect health and financial well-being, including determinations of whether a person is qualified for a job, is creditworthy, qualifies for health services, or is eligible for government benefits.

The use of algorithms in these situations has the potential to amplify systemic discrimination. Digital discrimination and algorithmic bias pose new challenges for lawmakers since existing civil rights laws may not be broad enough or clear enough to account for these situations. Some entities are not covered by these laws, including online platforms or applications that serve as intermediaries between employers and applicants or banks and prospective customers. As a result, such entities cannot be held accountable for discriminating against people based on race, gender, age, or other protected groups. That poses risks to equality and fairness. In addition, there is an inherent complexity and opacity to these algorithms. As a result, it can be difficult for people to effectively challenge discrimination using current law.

AGE DISCRIMINATION: Policy

AGE DISCRIMINATION: Policy

Remedies

Policymakers should strengthen federal and state laws that protect against age discrimination. People who are subject to age discrimination should be guaranteed adequate remedies, including monetary and compensatory damages. They should also have a private right of action in federal and state courts (see also Private Enforcement of Legal Rights).