Proof of Age Discrimination in Hiring Process
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training. The ADEA does not specifically prohibit an employer from asking an applicant's age or date of birth.
The elements of proof will vary depending on the exact factual circumstances. Generally, there are two types of proof of age discrimination. The first is direct evidence of the employer’s discriminatory intent. This type of evidence is very rare, but usually takes the form of oral statements that the prospective employee is "too old" or "there is too much gray hair in this company." Once the prospective employee has shown direct evidence of age discrimination, the burden of proof shifts to the employer to prove that it would have taken the adverse action even without the discriminatory intent. In most cases, however, the prospective employee does not have direct evidence and must rely on indirect, or circumstantial, evidence. This typically involves proof that a pattern of discrimination exists through the use of statistical analysis, or providing circumstantial evidence that discrimination occurred.