Age discrimination is prohibited by both the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) and the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”). Both Acts affect employers with fifteen (15) or more employees. To receive protection under the Act, an employee must be forty (40) years of age or older. It is not unlawful under the Act for an employer to favor an older worker over a younger one.
It is generally illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of age with respect to hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. It is also unlawful to subject an employee to harassment on the basis of age. Discrimination may occur even if the decision-maker (or the harasser) and the employee are both over the age of 40.
In order to establish a claim, an employee who is terminated may have to prove that he or she was replaced by a younger worker. In addition, it can be difficult to establish age discrimination unless the employee can prove that his or her employer made multiple age-related comments. Some comments, even when not directly related to an employee’s age, can still be “code” for age discrimination. These comments may include remarks such as “you don’t keep up with technology,” or “we need to bring in a more energetic generation.” Frequent questions about an employee’s plans for retirement may also be indicative of age discrimination.