By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits discrimination against people over 40, but there is dispute about whether Congress intended for the law to protect external job applicants, not just current or former employees.
Dale Kleber, a veteran lawyer, had been unemployed and job hunting for three years when he came across a position that seemed promising, but for this part of the ad: “3 to 7 years (no more than 7 years) of relevant legal experience,” it said.
Kleber, 58 at the time, had decades of experience, including as general counsel at Dean Foods and, most recently, as CEO of a dairy products trade group. But his efforts to land a new job at that level had been unsuccessful, and he didn’t want to draw down his retirement accounts to make ends meet.
So the Hinsdale, Ill., man applied for the advertised senior counsel position in the Vernon Hills office of medical technology company CareFusion, hoping to use his expertise in corporate transactions. He was never called in for an interview.
Eventually Kleber sued, claiming the seven-year experience cap discriminated against older applicants.
“You look at a job, a job you can do and do well, and you’re precluded from that strictly because you’ve been around the block a few times,” Kleber, now 62, said recently. “The impact was clearly that just about anyone over 40 wasn’t going to be considered, and I thought that was discriminatory.”