If you are over the age of 40 and believe you were denied employment, fired, or refused salary increases or other work-related benefits, you may have a claim against your employer under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

(It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on age or for filing an age discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADEA.)

Generally you must prove:

  • That you were protected, i.e. you are over 40 years old.
  • That you were qualified for the job, and/or were meeting the expectations of your employer.
  • That you were fired and replaced by someone younger or that you were not hired or not promoted in lieu of someone younger.
  • That you were fired or otherwise discriminated against under circumstances that reasonably indicate discrimination.
  • That whatever your employer said was the reason for his/her actions, your employer’s reason was a pretext for the real reason-age discrimination.

If you feel you can demonstrate these things sufficiently, you may very well have the grounds for a successful case against your employer. Be realistic and honest with yourself when evaluating the situation; but if you feel strongly that you were discriminated against, take further action and consider a suit. Today’s courts and government agencies are becoming increasingly sympathetic to the concerns and situations of older workers.

The ADEA generally applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government. Various state laws may also provide protection similar to that provided by the ADEA.

The law sometimes provides for short time limit for filing a charge against your employer-it can be as short as 180 days for filing with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC (Phone: 1-800-669-4000; TTY: 1-800-669-6820) is the federal agency whose job it is to protect you from discrimination based on age, sex, race, color, national origin, religion and disability. Many states and cities have similar fair employment practices agencies. In many states, a state or local agency investigates discrimination cases first and tries to work them out on the local level.

Need more information?

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

You may also be interested in:

  • How to File a Charge of Employment Discrimination
  • Mediation at EEOC
  • Training and Outreach
  • Information for Small Employers

Contact EEOC

EEOC’s customer service representatives are available to assist you in more than 150 languages between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. An automated system with answers to frequently asked questions is available on a 24-hour basis. You can reach EEOC:

By phone:


If you have a TTY device for hearing impaired:

TTY number is 1-800-669-6820

By Email:

Please include your zip code and/or city and state so that your email will be sent to the appropriate office.


EEOC Headquarters is located at:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
1801 L Street, N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20507,
Phone: (202) 663-4900,
TTY: (202) 663-4494

See also…

Job Discrimination and Harassment