Age Discrimination

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”) prohibit age discrimination against individuals who are 40 years or older. Notably, neither law protects workers under the age of 40. Age discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of his or her age with respect to any aspect of employment.

It is likewise unlawful under the ADEA and the IHRA to harass an employee based on his or her age by, for example, making offensive remarks about the person’s age. However, the ADEA and other anti-discrimination laws do not prohibit simple teasing and offhand comments that are less serious. Harassment is illegal only when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as a termination or demotion).

ADEA Protections for Employees and Job Applicants

Some sample ADEA protections include:

Job Notices and Advertisements

Age preferences, limitations or specifications in notices and advertisements are typically unlawful and violate the ADEA.

Pre-Employment Inquiries

While asking about an applicant’s age during an interview isn’t automatically an ADEA violation, such inquiries are generally disfavored since they suggest a possible intent to discriminate based on age.


The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (OWBPA) amended the ADEA to specifically prohibit employers from denying benefits to older employees whose costs may be greater than younger employees.

Waivers of ADEA Rights

The ADEA, as amended by OWBPA, sets out specific standards by which an employer waive his or her rights or claims under the ADEA. In addition to other things, the waiver must:

  • Be in writing and be understandable;
  • Specifically refer to ADEA rights or claims;
  • Not waive rights or claims that may arise in the future;
  • Be in exchange for valuable consideration in addition to anything of value to which the individual already is entitled;
  • Advise the individual in writing to consult an attorney before signing the waiver; and
  • Provide the individual at least 21 days to consider the agreement and at least seven days to revoke the agreement after signing it.

Damages and Coverage for Age Discrimination in Illinois

The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations, as well as to the federal government. Employees who are victims of age discrimination under the ADEA may be entitled to recover back pay, liquidated damages, front pay or reinstatement, and attorney’s fees. Unlike Title VII, the ADEA does not allow for the recovery of compensatory or punitive damages.

For claims of age discrimination under the IHRA, the Act covers employers with 15 or more employees in the state of Illinois, public contractors, and state governmental units.

Contact our Chicago Age Discrimination Lawyers

If you believe that you have been the victim of age discrimination at work, you must timely file a Charge of Discrimination before filing a lawsuit in federal or Illinois state court. We encourage you to contact our Chicago workplace discrimination attorneys to set up a free consultation in time to learn about your rights and options under the law.