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Are You Protected From Age Discrimination?

The federal law protecting individuals from age discrimination in employment (the Age Discrimination in Employment Act or "ADEA") does not apply to all employers, and even if your employer is covered you may not be.  Here's the parameters. First, the ADEA only applies to employers with 20 or more employees.  I'll spare you the details about how you determine whether someone is an employee and how long they have to be on the payroll to be counted.  What you should know is that courts will look at whether there were twenty or more employees in the current or preceding calendar year.  So, an employer with 20 employees in 2009 and accused of age discrimination in 2010 cannot escape liability under the ADEA by having a layoff in 2010.   Also, even if the employer does not have 20 employees but that employer is part of a larger enterprise along with a sister, parent or subsidiary company, the law may permit the court to include the employees from the company for determining the coverage issue. Second, the ADEA only prohibits age discrimination against individuals who are over 40 years of age.  I sometimes get calls from people in their twenties who feel they've been discriminated against because they are young.  I have to tell them I'm sorry but that that is not illegal, at least not under the ADEA and not under Texas law.  The good news for individuals is there is no upper limit of protection under the ADEA.  If you are 90 years old and are terminated or turned down for a job because of your age you have a remedy under the ADEA.  The ADEA used to have an upper limit of 70 years, but Congress amended the ADEA and removed it. Texas law (the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act) essentially tracks the ADEA on the parameters of the protection provided, except that only 15 employees are necessary to subject an employer to coverage.  So, bottom line:  if you are over 40 years of age and work for a company with 20 or more employees, you are protected from age discrimination in employment.  That doesn't mean you can't be fired for legitimate non-discriminatory reasons; you can.  It just means you can't be fired because of your age.  GSF

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