When You Are Young, They Assume: The Pitfalls of Reverse Age Discrimination

In the words of the ubiquitous Taylor Swift, “When you are young, they assume you know nothing.”  A recent survey by Resume Builder, a resume template and career advice company, seems to bear out her insight.  The survey found that 3 in 10 hiring managers would avoid hiring members of Gen Z (or Zoomers), which the Pew Research Center defines as those born in or after 1997.  According to these managers, twenty somethings are too entitled, demand too much money and lack interpersonal skills.

What is the legal risk in acting on these stereotypes?  If Zoomers can prove that they suffered an adverse employment action, such as a refusal to hire, solely because of their youth, do they have a claim for age discrimination?  Depending on where they work, they might.  While the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act only applies to employees 40 years or older, many states (and localities) have no such limitation and prohibit any type of discrimination based on age.  Currently, the states that fall within this category are Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, and Vermont.  (The specifics of each law should be reviewed to see if other limitations apply.)

Interestingly, while Minnesota allows employees under 40 to sue for age discrimination, the law does not protect those 70 and over.  Georgia, Missouri and Indiana have similar upper limits on their age discrimination laws, which is ironic given the age of the presumptive Presidential nominees.

So, while stereotypical age discrimination plaintiffs are aging Boomers or Gen Xers pushed out to make room for someone younger and cheaper, the young Zoomers unfairly denied a chance to prove themselves may also have a legal basis for complaint.

This article is intended as a general discussion of these issues only and is not to be considered legal advice or relied upon. For more information, please contact RPJ Partner Alice K. Jump who counsels clients on litigation, alternative dispute resolution and business counseling, with particular emphasis on representing clients in the financial services and real estate industries as well as educational and non-profit institutions. Ms. Jump is admitted to practice law in New York and before the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.