Can an employee sue for reverse age discrimination based on the practice of having younger workers do more physically challenging tasks?


Some of the daily tasks performed by your workers involve physically strenuous activities. A few supervisors routinely assign such tasks to younger workers based on the view that they are better able to safely accomplish physical tasks. One of the younger workers has complained, arguing that this constitutes unlawful reverse age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Is he right?


No. Although the ADEA prohibits employers from discriminating against older workers, it does not protect younger employees from so-called “reverse discrimination.” For example, a federal district court in Pennsylvania dismissed a widow’s claim that her husband’s employer discriminated against him based on his younger age and sent him to “the near certainty of death from methane gas” by having him clean a pit without adequate safety protection. The court explained that there is no right guaranteed by the federal Constitution or any statute that prevents a party from engaging in reverse age discrimination.

Keep in mind, however, that state laws may provide protections against any age-based employment decisions, including those made based on youth. Thus, state laws should be taken into account as well.

Source: Hogan v. The Borough of Sewickley (WDPa 2013) No. 12-1070.

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