State regulations prohibit discrimination on the basis of explicit protected categories, including age, in any program or activity that is funded directly by the state, or receives any financial assistance from the state (Black, 2002).
The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 and the federal implementing regulations at 34 Code of Federal Regulations part 110, prohibit discrimination based on age in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. All California community colleges are subject to the Act. The general rule as stated in the Act says that no person in the United States shall, on the basis of age, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance. The Act is often confused with another law, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act which protects older workers from discrimination in the workplace. The Act and ADEA are separate and distinct laws. The Act applies to students and others of any age who participate in community college programs and services (Black, 2002).
The Chancellors office revealed that there is no federal or state law justifying additional physical education enrollment or graduation requirements for community college students under the age of 21. The federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has rejected arguments that policies adopted by local educational governing boards qualify as ordinances adopted by an elected legislative body. Therefore, they concluded that the statutory objective exception does not apply. The office ruled that a policy requiring students under age 21 to take a physical education course or courses in order to receive an Associate degree unlawfully discriminates on the basis of age (Black, 2002).
A former computer programming instructor at Joliet Junior College in Illinois was cleared to pursue an age discrimination lawsuit after the college failed to renew her teaching contract. After reviewing the case, a federal district judge found sufficient evidence to warrant further review of Elizabeth Jacobsen's age discrimination claim. After 11 years as an adjunct at Joliet, Jacobsen was hired in 2003 by the Computer Information Office System's department for a full time position. She was 54 at the time of this hiring. The position was advertised as a permanent, tenure track job. The posting stipulated that a master's degree in computer science was strongly recommended, and while years of experience might be substituted for education, a master's degree was required for continued employment. At the time she was hired, Jacobsen was halfway through a master's program in computer science at Governor's State University. She intended to finish the degree within a year, although that didn't happen, according to court papers (Freedman and Freedman, 2007)
The evidence that was presented showed that the plaintiff was rejected for the tenure-track position while being selected for a one-year, temporary position that had a lesser title. She was twice selected for the temporary position, and the defendants kept the more prestigious position (the tenure track position) open for two years until the 2005-2006 school years, when they hired a 39-year-old woman. Plaintiff put forth sufficient evidence that she was rejected for the tenure track position under circumstances which give rise to an inference of discrimination. The circumstances give rise to an inference of age discrimination because the tenure-track position remained open for two years, at which time it was given to a woman under the age of forty. In addition, plaintiff put forth evidence that individuals under the age of forty were hired directly into tenure-track positions. Based on these facts the court ruled that the plaintiff has made out a prima facie case of age discrimination (Freedman and Freedman, 2007)
Age discrimination and the laws that surround it have been around for many years. As with most laws the entire concept is a work in progress. As new court cases as decided and the laws get tweaked hopefully everyone will move closer to being in compliance with the laws that exist. Age discrimination laws apply to educational institutions on two levels. The first is in the area of their employment practices, while the second lies in the area of student practices. The age discrimination laws apply to these institutions in both of these arenas, making it twice as important that they are following the letter of the law as it has been set down.
Age discrimination can be found in almost every occupational field across the country. The instances that take place very from person to person and from organization to organization. This is what makes the interpretation of the laws by the courts so vital. The goal is to make sure that everyone is treated equally under the protection of the laws that have bee set forth. Making sure that this happens is the job of the judicial system in this country. As time changes it is often seen that the interpretation of the laws changes. This always brings about a rash of new law suits that then must be decided based on the new interpretations. This is how new law is often formed.
Having this system in place is what guarantees that each person in this country is treated as equally and as fairly as possible. Equal treatment in our higher education system is vital to the future of the country as a whole. Those who are students at these institutions are the future leaders of tomorrow, so ensuring that they are receiving the best possible education from the most qualified instructors is so very important.
Adapting to age-discrimination regulations. (2008). Retrieved October 20, 2009, from Times