Getting older is a natural progression in life, but some of the associations that come with age like gray hair and hearing aids can garner negative perceptions. Some people believe that older people and the elderly are out of touch and cannot contribute as much to society as younger people. These stereotypes and negative attitudes foster age discrimination. Although age discrimination is typically associated with older people, it can affect people of all ages. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VI provisions and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, The Age Discrimination Act of 1975, prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in programs and activities that receive federal assistance such as educational programs, health care services, housing, welfare, food stamps, and rehabilitation programs.
Age Discrimination Act of 1975 vs. Age Discrimination in Employment Act
These two federal statutes are often confused or used interchangeably because both laws prohibit age discrimination. However, the laws are very different. Although the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) was enacted prior to the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, the Age Discrimination Act does not modify or amend the ADEA. It does not target older Americans like the ADEA does, but it protects age in general by not defining an age group. This means that individuals of various ages are protected from discrimination.
Also, The ADEA is specifically designed for employees and job applicants, but the Age Discrimination Act applies to a wider range of individuals affected by federally funded programs, including students as well as employees. In fact many of the groups filing complaints for violations under the Age Discrimination Act are students of various ages, many of whom have filed complaints citing age discrimination in admissions to community colleges and graduate schools.
Exemptions under the Age Discrimination Act
Although the statute expressly forbids age discrimination, it is permissible to use certain age restrictions under the following conditions:
Age Distinction is Necessary for the Normal Operation of the Activity/Program
The statute allows for programs and activities to function normally and efficiently; and if an age distinction makes that possible, then it is acceptable. Consider, for example a special intern program for hospitality industry majors at a federally funded university. Let's assume one of the requirements is the ability of students to serve alcohol. The university could say that making an age distinction -- not admitting students under the age of 21 -- would be necessary for the program to function.
Other Factors have a Substantial Relationship to the Activity/Program
The Age Discrimination Act includes allowances for reasonable factors other than age to be included if there is a substantial and direct relationship to the activity or program. The action cannot be based solely on age. These factors could include variables such as past experience, financial considerations, and security, depending on the specific circumstances. For example, an elderly woman wants to adopt her foster son, but her request is denied. She alleges it is because of her age, but another factor -- her physical health -- could be a reason for the denial.
Get Help with your Age Discrimination Claim
Did you receive lesser services due to your age? Were you denied admittance to school and suspect it is because of your age? If you think you have an age discrimination claim under the Age Discrimination Act, you might want to talk to an attorney. An attorney who knows about discrimination can help you assert your rights.
Contact a qualified civil rights attorney to help you protect your rights.