Can an Employment Agency Refuse to Refer a Worker Due to Age?

New York employers need to tread carefully when it comes to soliciting information regarding the ages of job applicants. In some industries–notably technology–there is often a demonstrable bias in favor of hiring younger workers. Federal and state anti-discrimination laws do not recognize such biases as legitimate grounds for making employment decisions.

IT Staffing Company Agrees to Pay EEOC $50K to Settle ADEA Charges

For example, the New York office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced that it had settled federal age discrimination charges against an employment agency that specializes in staffing IT companies. The EEOC sued the company last year after it learned of an email rejecting a job applicant due to his age. Under the terms of the settlement, the defendant agreed to pay the EEOC $50,000 and properly train its employees to prevent future acts of illegal age discrimination.

According to the EEOC's original complaint, which it filed in New Jersey federal court last May, the applicant in this case posted his resume to the defendant's job website. The defendant subsequently contacted the applicant in connection with a IT project management position. After several discussions regarding the position and its qualifications, a member of the defendant's staff sent the applicant an email that stated the agency was concerned that the applicant was “born in 1945” because “[a]ge will matter” to the client. Consequently, the email told the applicant the defendant could not “submit your profile” to the client.

As the district director of the EEOC's New York office explained, “An employment agency's refusal to refer a qualified applicant because of the applicant's age is a plain violation of the ADEA.” To that end, the EEOC's settlement prohibits the defendant “from considering an applicant's age when deciding whether to refer them to a job opening.” Indeed, the defendant is not even allowed to ask an applicant about their year of birth before making a client referral.

Taking on Age Discrimination in New York Workplaces

Keep in mind, the ADEA does not just apply to hiring. An employer cannot disfavor a worker who is age 40 or older when it comes to making decisions regarding compensation, promotions, or job assignments. In addition, the EEOC has said that employers cannot discriminate within the protected age group. In other words, an employer cannot favor a 50-year-old employee over a 60-year-old employee, even though both fall within the over-40 category protected by the ADEA.

Also note that many employers and agencies are not as blunt as the defendant in the case above when it comes to age discrimination. The actual discrimination you experience may be more subtle or carefully concealed, but it is no less illegal. If you suspect that your age played a role in your inability to get a job or is keeping you from advancing with your current employer, then you should seek advice from a qualified New York employment attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Nisar Law Group, P.C., at 646.760.6493 to speak with a member of our legal team today.