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EEOC Informal Discussion Letter

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.

ADEA: Age/Reverse Age Discrimination

October 28, 2003


This is in response to your letter of October 9, 2003, addressed to Cari Dominguez, Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Specifically, you voice support for remarks made by the Chair in a recent USA Today article on "reverse age discrimination." The Chair appreciates your comments and has asked this office to respond directly to you.

As you know, the EEOC enforces, among other laws, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. §621 et seq., which forbids employers from discriminating against persons age 40 and over on the basis of their age. As the Chair noted, because the law currently protects only those individuals who are 40 and over, workers below age 40 who find themselves victims of age discrimination are unprotected. Nevertheless, the Chair believes that by proactively reaching out to our stakeholders we may be able to ameliorate problems that are technically outside the reach of the law. The Commission urges all employers to voluntarily use a "best practices" approach to resolving workplace issues.

Note, too, that the Commission has formed an "Emerging Trends Task Force" to track novel or unresolved employment discrimination issues. Although the task force focuses primarily on issues related to covered discrimination, it will share with the Commission any information about age bias against younger individuals.

You suggest that "extension in the law is warranted" to protect younger employees from age discrimination. As you know, only Congress can extend the law's coverage; the Commission simply enforces the laws Congress enacts. You may, therefore, wish to communicate your concerns to your congressional representatives.

We thank you for your insights and your support of the Chair and the Commission. Thank you, too, for bringing these matters to our attention.


Dianna B. Johnston
Assistant Legal Counsel
Title VII/ADEA/EPA Division

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