Job Postings & Descriptions - Are Yours ADEA Compliant?

  • Posted by: Karen Booher |
  • 7/17/18 |
  • 8:00 AM
Job Postings & Descriptions - Are Yours ADEA Compliant?

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967

The ADEA, passed in 1967, prohibits discrimination in employment against individuals age 40 years and older. Today, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) receives over 20,000 age discrimination charges per year, which accounts for more than 20 percent of all discrimination charges.  Although not as much in the spotlight as sexual harassment and racism, age discrimination is more prevalent than people think, and cases are on the rise. Some notable recent cases related to hiring and interviewing practices:

  • In 2017, a public accounting firm giant was hit with a class action suit claiming that its "aggressive" on-campus recruitment of new college graduates for entry-level positions - to the exclusion of older job seekers - was discriminatory against older workers. The company has denied that its practices are discriminatory.
  • In May 2018, the EEOC and a major restaurant operator reached a $2.85 million settlement of an age discrimination class action lawsuit that alleged managers asked older job applicants their age, made age-related comments during job interviews, and hired older workers at a significantly lower rate than applicants who were under age 40.

Do your Company's Job Descriptions & Postings Mask Age Discrimination?

While HR departments and hiring managers may not intentionally try to limit or exclude older workers from applying, sometimes that can be an unfortunate outcome if certain common phrases are used.  

"Words/Phrases to Watch"... could be Perceived as:

"1-2 Years' (or 3-5 Years') Experience"… might imply that you only want to hire people with lesser experience (i.e. who are younger) - - try saying "1+ Years" instead

"GPA of 3.5 or higher"... sends the message that you're looking for employees at a life stage where these assessments remain relevant

"High-energy"... often a euhemism for young

"Digital native"... may discourage qualified applicants who didn't come of age with digital and mobile technology

"Meals included"... implies an expectation that workers don't have a family waiting for them to come home to dinner

When turning people down for interviews or jobs, refrain from using "overqualified" which can mask age bias since experience often correlates with age. And, it's also best to stay away from "not a good cultural fit" which can be problematic if your culture is overtly youth-oriented.

Do a self-check of your company's recruitment practices, and of how you are writing your job descriptions and job postings. What changes do you need to make to ensure your company doesn't run afoul of the law, even if it's not intentional?

Age is the one protected class where almost everyone - eventually is included

The Information Provided Does Not Constitute Legal Advice

J. Kent Staffing is a Denver temporary staffing agency and has a world-wide audience.  Employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country. Therefore, employers, temporary staffing agencies, and direct hire recruiting firms should consult their own labor or employment law attorneys with additional questions or for guidance and more information specific to their country, state and workplace.


Sources Used:  1) HR Magazine, February 2018, "More Than a Number, by Kate Rockwood, 2) ASA Staffing Today, 6/12/2018, "In a Culture of Inclusiveness, Don't Overlook Age", by Jennifer Cerven, Barnes & Thornburg LLP

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