The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Age Discrimination in Illinois Can Be Legal?

Age discrimination is probably the only type of employment discrimination that is occasionally legal. Under both federal and state law, anti-age discrimination policies in Illinois do not protect everybody.

For example, it is perfectly legal to refuse to hire applicants in their twenties. People in their twenties can fulfill many stereotypes like being immature, unreliable, high maintenance, and lazy. And any employer can rely on these stereotypes to make employment decisions like hiring and firing.

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Illinois Human Rights Act only protect individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. So employees in their twenties and thirties are usually out of luck.

The laws were drafted in this way because it is usually the older, more senior, workers who find themselves shut out of the workplace. For whatever reason, the negative stereotypes associated with older workers are more severe than the negative stereotypes associated with younger workers, and older workers need the laws to protect them.

As a result, an ad that says “hiring only recent grads” may be illegal, while an ad that says “no recent grads being hired” may be legal.

Also, not all employers are covered by the age discrimination laws. Under the ADEA, only employers with 20 or more employees are subject to the law. However, the Illinois state law is more stringent, applying to any employer with 15 or more employees.

Age discrimination in Illinois should be renamed “older worker discrimination.” Contrary to popular opinion, not all age discrimination is illegal; employers can discriminate against younger workers, and employers with smaller numbers of employees can discriminate against older workers without repercussion.

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