When Does the Law Protect Me Against Age Discrimination in Illinois?

When Does the Law Protect Me Against Age Discrimination in Illinois?

State anti-discrimination laws apply to almost all employees who are over 40. Most Millennial workers are over 40, and most Gen Z workers are much closer to 40 than they would care to admit. Age discrimination in employment is very common, mostly because older workers are more expensive than younger workers. There are also many lingering biases against older workers, mostly related to their energy levels and their ability to use office technology.

Since Illinois is an at-will employment state, many age discrimination victims feel like they have few legal options. Additionally, these victims may feel like they have no protection during the pre-employment process. These things are not true. Even in an at-will state and even if you were not a legal employee, an Illinois age discrimination lawyer can still obtain compensation and justice for you in court.


It is not a violation of federal or state law to ask an applicant’s age or state that a company only wants to hire a “digital native.” However, these things could be discriminatory.

When a potential employer knows an applicant’s age, it is much harder for the employer to argue its refusal to hire the individual was unrelated to age bias. Employers who try to argue they knew about the applicant’s age, but did not care about it, usually do not convince jurors that their decisions were discriminatory neutral. You cannot un-ring a bell.

Likewise, an ad that solicits a digital native is not, per se, discriminatory. Basically, this phrase means an employer wants someone who grew up using technology instead of someone who learned how to use it later in life. Because of the high potential for age discrimination, Marc Prensky, the man who coined this phrase in 2001, has since redefined it.

Essentially, asking about age or limiting an employment search to digital natives creates a presumption of age discrimination.

During and After Employment

Age discrimination during the employment relationship is even more common than pre-employment age discrimination. Quite simply, younger workers are cheaper than older workers. They do not earn as much, and their health insurance costs are lower. Under state and federal law, employers must be willing to absorb these costs. A worker’s life is much more than numbers on a spreadsheet.

Age discrimination during employment comes in many forms. Some of the more common incidents our Illinois age discrimination lawyers handle include:

  • Sidelining,
  • Denial of a raise or promotion,
  • Reassignment to an unfavorable shift or location,
  • Denial of business opportunities, and
  • Discriminatory comments from co-workers or supervisors.

After the employer-employee relationship ends, age discrimination protection continues. Usually, employers cannot comment about a former worker’s energy level or make other statements that could be discriminatory.

Age Discrimination Waivers

As a condition of employment, many bosses require workers to sign waivers. In these waivers, workers purportedly give up age discrimination and other claims, or they agree to the mandatory arbitration of these claims.

Basically, arbitration is a private, non-jury trial. Arbitration clauses have come under fire recently. They allow employers to keep discriminatory practices in the dark. 

Age discrimination and other waivers must meet certain requirements under state and federal law. For example, in most cases, the employee must receive something of value above and beyond a job, the employee must have at least 21 days to sign the waiver, and the waiver must clearly advise employees to speak with Illinois age discrimination lawyers before they sign anything.

Connect with a Diligent Cook County Attorney

Job bias victims have legal options in Illinois. For a free consultation with an experienced Illinois age discrimination attorney, contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. After-hours and virtual consultations are available.