Does Favoring College Graduates in Hiring Constitute "Age Discrimination"?

Age discrimination is illegal when the victims are workers or job applicants ages 40 and over. It is important to distinguish illegal acts of age discrimination from employment policies that merely disfavor older workers in practice. Not every such policy is illegal. The burden is on the plaintiff making a claim to prove there was discriminatory intent behind the policy.

Judge Rules Rejected FDIC Applicant Lacks Standing to Challenge Obama-era Executive Order

For example, in a recent unpublished opinion the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York addressed an employment policy designed to encourage applications from recent college graduates. The court said the policy did not constitute age discrimination under the facts presented by the plaintiff, who was over the age of 40 and also happened to be a recent college graduate.

The policy in question is the federal Pathways Program. Former President Barack Obama created this program through a 2010 executive order. The program is designed to “provide individuals who have recently graduated from qualifying educational institutions or programs with developmental experiences in the Federal Government.” The executive order makes no reference to an applicant's age.

In the present case, the plaintiff applied for a Pathways Program internship with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). He was 41 at the time. Although he was qualified as a recent college graduate, he was ultimately not selected for an internship. The plaintiff subsequently sued the FDIC's chairman, alleging the Pathways Program discriminated against older workers in violation of federal law and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

As the Second Circuit explained, when it comes to the Constitution age “is not a suspect class.” The government is therefore allowed to rely on “age classification” if it is is “rationally related to a legitimate government interest.” Here, the government's interest was fairly straightforward: The Pathways Program was designed “to replenish a workforce containing an ever-growing number of Federal employees nearing retirement age with students and recent graduates.”

More to the point, however, the appeals court said the plaintiff's “timing” was off. The plaintiff was denied employment with the FDIC in 2009, about a year before President Obama signed the executive order creating the Pathways Program. On top of that, the Program did not discriminate against the plaintiff because “he was, as a recent college graduate, an intended beneficiary of the program and cannot claim harm from it.”

While the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) does protect job applicants ages 40 and older who apply for government work, the Second Circuit said the plaintiff failed to present sufficient facts to support a valid claim under the law. The Court said the plaintiff simply failed to present any credible evidence that the FDIC had a “discriminatory motivation” when it declined to hire him.

Speak With a New York Employment Discrimination Attorney Today

Despite the outcome of the case above, age discrimination remains a serious problem for many older New York workers. If you have been refused a job due to your age, you should speak with a qualified New York employment attorney right away. Contact the Law Offices of Nisar Law Group, P.C., at 646.760.6493 to speak with a lawyer today about your situation.


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