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Court rules age discrimination against job applicants is legal (kinda)

(BUSINESS NEWS) Is “overqualified” code for “too old” when a job applicant is older? This age discrimination lawsuit argues just that, and an appeal is likely.

older job applicant - age discrimination case

Last October, The American Genius reported on Kleber v. CareFusion Inc., a case involving age bias and discrimination.

Kleber, who was 58 at the time of the job application, argued that CareFusion discriminated against him in its hiring practices by not even interviewing him for a position that the company would ultimately hire a 29-year-old for.

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has ruled 8-4 that Congress intended the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to only cover current employees, not job applicants.

Although the ruling only applies to the 7th Circuit, it’s a huge blow to older workers who are overlooked during the hiring process.  

Although age, race and gender discrimination are often referred to together, they fall under different laws.

The ADEA covers age discrimination; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act covers race and gender. Congress has extended Title VII to cover job applicants.

What’s Next?

Kleber can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Chicago Tribune reports that he is looking at his legal options. With so much at stake, I would expect AARP, whose attorneys represented Kleber in the case, to appeal the decision, but they have not yet made that choice.

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“We strongly disagree with the decision and find it very disheartening that the court interpreted a civil rights law so narrowly, despite the statutory language and the great weight of Supreme Court precedent,” AARP attorney Dara Smith, who represented Kleber in the case, said in a statement. “Mr. Kleber and all older job seekers deserve all of the protections Congress intended to give them.”

What does this mean for business owners?

ADEA does apply to current employees. You cannot discriminate against employees due to age, even if you’re located outside the 7th Circuit.

It will make it more difficult to win an age discrimination case in other circuits, but businesses shouldn’t think of this as a license to ignore older workers in the hiring process.

Legally, you may get away with it (for now), but you are missing out on talent and experience.

Let’s hope Congress amends the ADEA to protect job applicants.

But until it does, be honorable in your hiring practices. Don’t disregard an employee based on age.

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Dawn Brotherton is a Sr. Staff Writer at The American Genius with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. She is an experienced business writer with over 10 years of experience in SEO and content creation. Since 2017, she has earned $60K+ in grant writing for a local community center, which assists disadvantaged adults in the area.



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