The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is a measure to protect older Americans from any kind of employment mistreatment based on age. Any person over age 40 years old can potentially qualify for these protections. The law, passed in 1967, specifically prohibits biased hiring practices along with wage discrimination and any sort of unfavorable treatment that is based purely on age. For example, if a person feels he was passed over for a promotion because he is older than his competitor, he could potentially have grounds for complaint under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
The law defines an employer as a group in an industry "effecting commerce" with 20 or more employees. This definition is fairly broad, and it applies to a wide range of businesses. Some very small businesses might not fit within the the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, but they would generally be uncommon.
The main rule governing employees covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act is that they must be over the age of 40. Just about any employee within that age range is protected, with a couple exceptions. Independent contractors do not fit within the definition. Neither do elected officials nor some of their appointees who work on policy issues. The political exception exists because situations might arise where age would be a valid reason to remove an elected person from office.
Employers are allowed to ask a person for his age under the act, but there are some special restrictions. If an employer is asking for a person’s age specifically to intimidate him and deter him from applying, that would be a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. To avoid this kind of behavior, any employer who wants to ask about age up front can be subject to special scrutiny.
Employers are not allowed to list any age limitations in their job advertisements with one exception. There are some jobs where people over a certain age would simply not be able to perform their duties. One example might be a job requiring extremely difficult physical labor. Another example might be an acting job where the producers needed a 12-year-old or a 20-year-old. In those situations, an older person may not be able to fulfill the occupation, and it would generally be acceptable to list a reasonable age limit in job notices.