The hiring manager told me that I was “overqualified” where most applicants were younger. Is this age discrimination?

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Question:

I recently applied for a job with a local company as a Project Manager.  While I was awaiting my interview, I noticed that most of the other candidates were much younger.  The hiring manager told me that I was “overqualified”.  Is this age discrimination?

Answer:

The employer’s use of the term “overqualified” may be a sign of age discrimination.  It is unlawful for an employer to not hire an experienced older person based merely on the assumption that they might become bored or dissatisfied and leave the job.

The Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits hiring or firing employees on the basis of age.  Employers also may not force employees to retire before age 70, deny promotions based on age, or punish older workers with reduced benefits or compensation.  This act only applies to workers aged 40 or older.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces this law.

The employee or applicant has the burden of proving discrimination, which must meet the following standards:

  • That he or she is 40 years of age or older
  • That he or she was qualified for or was satisfactorily performing in their current job
  • That a younger worker was selected for the position or was treated more favorably
  • That some adverse employment action was taken

If these factors are met, the employer then has a chance to explain that the action was not based on age.

Any individual who believes that his or her employment rights have been violated may file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.

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