Is it legal for an employer to ask an employee’s age?

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Is it legal for an employer to ask an employee’s age?

This week, during a conversation, my office manager asked my age. When I replied that I’m 64, she responded, “Well, you still have plenty of youth, vim and vigor,” implying that I should be able to fulfill all the (impossible) requirements of the job.

Asked on January 6, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Any employer may not discriminate against or harass an employee on the basis of his or her age...that's the not same thing as saying that the employer can't ever ask about your age. (Consider: an employer also can't discriminate on the basis of race or sex, but usually clearly knows the employee's race or sex; so just knowing or inquiring about a protected category is not illegal.)

If you suffer any harassment or discrimination at work due to your age, you may have a cause of action; but an innocent question by itself is not actionable.


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