When age may be an issue

Q: I am 55 and have been job hunting for several months now. I apply for jobs, for which I have significant and related experience. Then, nothing. No response, nothing.

There was one job for which I interviewed. It was perfect for my background. The role required extensive experience in my field. During the interview they told me I was a strong candidate but then nothing. I called, emailed and followed up several times. I have a friend that works at this company and she said they were still interviewing for the role. My friend told me that they may be looking for someone younger but she could not confirm this information. The hiring manager is around 30 years old and could be my son. I never heard back from the company. I assume it was eventually filled.

This has happened repeatedly. I think I am being discriminated against by this company. I want to explore legal actions. What are your thoughts?

A: It sounds like it was a frustrating experience. In many cases employers’ hiring decisions are made for entirely appropriate reasons. Even when employers handle the hiring process incorrectly, their missteps do not necessarily violate the law. Sometimes, however, poor recruiting and employment practices can cross the line between unprofessional and unlawful conduct.

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Massachusetts state Fair Employment Law both forbid age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older. These laws prohibit discrimination throughout employment, including during the recruiting and hiring processes. The circumstances of your application certainly raise concerning questions, however, there may be a number of legitimate reasons you were not selected for this job.


If you believe that there is evidence that you were the victim of employment discrimination, you may consider filing a charge of discrimination with either the U.S. Equal Employment Commission (the EEOC) or the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (the MCAD). It is important to keep in mind that bringing a discrimination case often takes many months, or even years. Proving age discrimination is particularly challenging. According to employment attorney Daniel S. Field, a job applicant asserting a federal age discrimination claim must prove that age was the determinative factor for the employer’s decision (as opposed to just one factor among several under a “mixed-motive” theory). This requires an applicant to produce evidence that age was the ‘but-for’ cause of the challenged employment action, according to Field who is a partner at Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP, an employment and labor law firm.


To assess your options, the best place to start may be with an experienced employment lawyer who can discuss your options. NELA is an employee-side legal organization that may be able to help.

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