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If you are an employer in California or you are over the age of 40, then you should understand the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 because it can affect you. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the ADEA is relevant to employers with more than 20 employees, and it covers those who are age 40 or older from discrimination based on age. The law sets out specific guidelines that must be followed and rules for the treatment of older employees.

You may have heard that employers cannot ask about age in pre-employment processes, like employment applications or interviews. This is actually not true. The ADEA does not prevent employers from inquiring about your age, but it does require employers be able to verify a lawful reason for requesting the information. If a lawful reason cannot be given, then it is a violation of the ADEA. In general, any lawful request could wait to be made until after you are hired.

Another exception to the ADEA is what is called a bona fide occupational qualification. If age can be considered a BFOQ, then it can be used in hiring decisions and job ads. A BFOQ is something that is necessary to business operations. For example, if a casting agent needs an actor who is in his 20s for a part in a movie, then this would be a BFOQ.

In general, job ads cannot specify age, apprenticeships cannot be based on age, hiring and firing decisions cannot be made based on age and benefit decisions cannot be related to age. The ADEA does allow you to waive your ADEA rights as an employee, but you must do so in writing and get something of value in exchange. This information is only intended to educate and should not be interpreted as legal advice.