Workers in Arizona and around the country over the age of 40 are protected against unfair treatment in the workplace by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, but the landmark 1967 law does not specifically state that these protections extend to those applying for employment. The courts have consistently ruled that job advertising violates federal civil rights laws when it excludes candidates based on their race, gender, religion or national origin, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled in April 2017 that employers could exclude older job candidates in certain situations without violating the ADEA.
It should be remembered that this controversial ruling only applies to employers in Illinois and is likely to be challenged in the future. However, civil rights groups fear that the decision is a sign of growing judicial bias against older workers. The case involved a 58-year-old man who was not even granted an interview when he applied for an attorney position at a health care company. A less qualified 29-year-old applicant was eventually hired.
The job posting that the man responded to stated that only applicants with less than seven years of relevant experience would be considered. Court records reveal that the man was rejected even though he met this requirement. This has been a hot-button workplace discrimination issue in recent years, and many of the nation’s largest employers have been accused of using social media algorithms and carefully worded job advertisements to avoid or deter older candidates.
Attorneys with experience in this area may be dismayed by this decision, but they could also point out that only one federal court has taken this stance. Older job applicants in Arizona may still take legal action if they feel that they were denied employment based solely on their age, and attorneys could argue vigorously on their behalf both at the negotiating table and in court.