The Age Discrimination Act (ADA) prohibits employees from discrimination based on an individual's age. Age discrimination is prohibited in all forms of employment, hiring, training, promotions, tasks, and discharges. The seniority system is a way to determine employment advantages based on the length of service of employees. Although the seniority system is a way to reward long term employees, it might also be a liability for discrimination.
A seniority system that offers lesser rights and actually results in the discharge of individuals who are in a certain age group would be considered age discrimination. A bona fide seniority system may seem discriminatory because it allows only certain employees specific rights but it is not meant to be discriminatory so it is not unlawful.
The seniority system does not prohibit anyone from obtaining certain benefits, it simply allows employees who have been working with the company the longest to receive those benefits first, so it is not considered age discrimination. It would only be considered discrimination if it prohibited employees from enjoying those rights in regards to their gender, race, religion, or disability. It may seem discriminatory to some but it is not meant on a discriminatory basis.
It is required that employers make the seniority system clear to all of its employees in order to avoid any confusion. An example of the seniority system that might seem like age discrimination is if senior employees had the opportunity to compete for a promotion while junior employees are not eligible or would even receive less consideration.
This might not be because of their age but simply because of their work experience. Seniority also makes the employees who have been with the company or business the longest less likely to lose their jobs as a result of layoffs.
The seniority system should not require older individuals to involuntarily retire simply because of their age. This is unlawful and prohibited as part of the Age Discrimination Act. The seniority system also should not base the amount of payment or each benefit on the age of the employee. All employees are entitled to the same amount of pay and to the same benefits.
This does not mean that if a person that has been with a company for thirty years and, due to when they started, the benefits package was a certain amount, that a person who has been with the company for only five years has the same amount in their benefits package.
If a benefit package is based on accrued amounts and the starting amounts differ each year, then that is discussed with the employees when they are hired and it is not required that all employees have the same benefit packages.
Age discrimination is unlawful and the Age Discrimination Act prohibits employers from discriminating. The seniority system is a way to reward those who have provided service to a business for longer periods of time and it is not unlawful. It is also not meant to be discriminatory.