Qualified at Any Age

July 02, 2024
Inside HR
HR Compliance
Recruiting & Hiring
Read time: 3 mins

If you were job searching and came across postings that included this language with these requirements, would you be concerned?

  • Early career analyst
  • 0 to 1 years of relevant post-education experience
  • Recent college graduates, new college grads
  • You have gained your first working experience (max. 2 years)

You probably should be, as they can be indicators that the company posting the jobs is attempting to limit its candidate pool to younger applicants. This potentially poses a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA).

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Strategic Enforcement Plan for Fiscal Years 2024-2028 (SEP) details the agency’s priorities for the covered years. Included in these priorities is a focus on recruitment practices that exclude protected classes, including older workers.

This focus has been evidenced in prior SEPs by several high-profile cases that resulted in large settlements. In October 2023, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly reached an agreement to pay $2.4 million to settle a nationwide lawsuit related to Lilly’s “Early Career” hiring initiative, which sought to add more millennials to their workforce, thereby disadvantaging older workers. In February 2023, a Swiss-based national manufacturer of circular connectors used in medical devices agreed to pay $460,000 to settle an age discrimination complaint filed on behalf of an HR director who voiced concerns over the company’s plans to replace older workers with a younger workforce. In late 2023, a Wisconsin-based company agreed to pay $90,000 to a 49-year-old applicant who was advised by the company’s outside recruiter that the company was “looking for someone more junior that can … stay with the company for years to come.”

Most recently, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Raytheon Technologies Corp. The suit claims that Raytheon’s postings for job openings used “new college graduate,” “recent graduates,” and other similar phrases to target younger workers. The 67-year-old plaintiff alleges that, despite repeated applications to open positions at the company, he was denied even a chance to interview. Time will tell if the plaintiff has a case!

I still find myself puzzled by some companies’ reluctance to hire older workers. Yes, I’m one of them, and MRA hired me when I was well over 40 (thank you!). I think of the amazing people I’ve known who have accomplished remarkable things after they reached that “protected” age of over 40. I include my sister, who at 67, earned her Doctor of Practice in Public Health Nursing. She is my personal hero.

There are so many others who prove that age is only a number:

  • Gabrielle Rose, who at age 46 qualified for the Olympic swimming trials this year. She won her heat, finishing ahead of seven swimmers half her age!
  • In June 2014, 91-year-old Harriette Thompson completed a marathon in 7 hours, 7 minutes, and 42 seconds.
  • In 2014, Yiuchiro Miura, aged 80, reached the summit of Mount Everest.
  • Leonid Hurwicz was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences at the age of 90.
  • Harland Sanders created the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain when he was 62.
  • Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, created the chain at age 52.
  • Benjamin Franklin was 78 when he invented bifocal glasses.

So, before you post that job ad, take a final look for any potential age-related bias that may been unintentionally (or intentionally) included. If you don’t, you are limiting your talent pool and potentially opening yourself up to litigation!

Stay young—no matter your age!