Colin Walsh
Texas Employer Lawyer Colin Walsh

My birthday is this week.  I turn 40.  That means I’m now in a protected class!  The older worker class.  So as I continue the slow walk up the stony steps towards the box, I thought I’d talk about the ADEA.

Age discrimination in the workplace is a pervasive issue that affects countless individuals across the United States. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was enacted to combat this problem and ensure that individuals are judged based on their abilities and qualifications rather than their age. 

The ADEA was passed in 1967 and amended several times since to address the issue of age discrimination in employment. Its primary objective is to protect workers aged 40 and older from discriminatory practices in hiring, promotion, compensation, and termination. The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, employment agencies, labor organizations, and the federal government.

Key Provisions of the ADEA

  1. 1. Prohibition of Age Discrimination: The ADEA makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or job applicants based on their age. This includes all aspects of employment, from hiring and firing decisions to promotions and compensation.
  2. 2. Equal Employment Opportunities: The ADEA mandates that employees aged 40 and older should be provided with the same employment opportunities as younger workers. They should not be excluded or disadvantaged based on their age.
  3. 3. Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ): While the ADEA prohibits age discrimination, there are exceptions when age is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary for the normal operation of a particular business. For example, age limits can be imposed for certain safety-sensitive positions.
  4. 4. Retaliation Protection: The ADEA also safeguards employees who assert their rights under the act by prohibiting retaliation. This means that if an employee reports age discrimination or participates in a related investigation, they cannot be subject to adverse employment actions as a result.

Significance of the ADEA

  1. 1. Promoting Equal Opportunity: The ADEA plays a crucial role in promoting equal employment opportunities for older workers. It ensures that they are not unfairly marginalized in the workforce based solely on their age.
  2. 2. Fostering Diversity: Age diversity in the workplace is not only a matter of fairness but also contributes to a rich and diverse workforce. The experience and wisdom of older employees can bring unique perspectives and skills to the table, enhancing overall productivity and innovation.
  3. 3. Economic Security for Older Workers: As people are living longer and working well into their later years, the ADEA provides economic security by preventing age-based discrimination that could otherwise lead to unemployment or underemployment.

There are problems with the ADEA and its coverage is incomplete.  As mentioned above, it only covers employers with 20 or more employees.  Also, because it is only focused on older workers, young scamps might be discriminated against.  In some cases, younger workers may claim that policies intended to protect older employees actually discriminate against them. Further, while age discrimination is illegal, discrimination based on higher pay is not.  Older workers tend to be paid more than younger workers because they have more experience and are awesome.  One cynical defense that has gained traction is that these older workers were not fired for their age, but their pay.  The legal gymnastics that courts go through to say that age played no role in such a decision is disheartening.

In any event, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act is a critical piece of legislation that plays a pivotal role in protecting the rights of older workers. It fosters equal employment opportunities, promotes diversity, and ensures economic security for individuals aged 40 and older. However, it is essential to recognize the challenges and limitations of the ADEA and work towards continuous improvements to address the evolving nature of age discrimination in the modern job market. By upholding the principles of fairness, equity, and respect for the wisdom of experience, we can create a more inclusive and prosperous work environment for people of all ages.

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Photo of Colin W. Walsh Colin W. Walsh

We asked Colin W. Walsh, an experienced Trial Attorney in the Austin office of Wiley Walsh, P.C., to impart his candid answers to a range of questions.   After reading, you will be more more informed on the well-respected reputation that Mr. Walsh

We asked Colin W. Walsh, an experienced Trial Attorney in the Austin office of Wiley Walsh, P.C., to impart his candid answers to a range of questions.   After reading, you will be more more informed on the well-respected reputation that Mr. Walsh carries.

1. What do you like most about being an employment lawyer?

I enjoy getting tangible results for my clients and being involved in an area of law that affects everybody every day.

2. What is the most important issue to you of being an advocate?

One of the most important issues to me as an advocate is to not only zealously represent my clients, but also the law.

3. What kind of clients do you like best?

I like the clients that I am able to help who were not able to find help elsewhere.  On a couple of occasions now, a client has told me that my firm is the first one that has listened to his or her issue and offered any kind of assistance.

4. What do you think is the most important part of a good case?

The client.  If the client is not invested, then the other side won’t take it seriously and neither will the jury.

5. What labor and employment issues do you think are currently trending?

The biggest employment discrimination issues I see right now are related to age, disability, and pregnancy discrimination.  For some reason, these types of discrimination seem to be acceptable to employers.  The other issues right now are minimum wage and overtime pay.

6. Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?

Justice William Brennan.

7. What would you say to HR of a company about how to treat employees?

It would be to listen to your employees.  Most employees are not looking to sue when he or she goes to Human Resources.  These employees are sincerely looking for help.  Nothing makes an employee seek legal counsel like when he or she complains about something and HR starts investigating the employee instead of the complaint.

8. Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?

The most interesting job I’ve had is working as an extra in film and television.  I should have known that I was destined to be a lawyer at that point because two of my biggest gigs were the TV show “Boston Legal” and the film Charlie Wilson’s War.

9. What is your favorite food?

Meat pies.  I first discovered them when I studied abroad in undergrad.  I can’t believe these have not caught on in the U.S. because they are brilliant.

10. What’s the best part of living in Austin?

All of the outdoor festivals.  And the Longhorns.

Colin W. Walsh is a Trial Attorney in the Austin office of Wiley Walsh, P.C.  He graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in theatre in 2006.  Mr. Walsh then graduated from The University of Texas School of Law with honors in 2011.