The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects California residents over the age of 40 from age discrimination. This federal law went into effect in 1967, but sometimes what appears to be age discrimination is difficult to prove in court. New legislation is pending in Congress that could make it easier for someone to prove age discrimination.

The results of a recent study show that older job applicants are often less likely to be called for interviews than the younger ones. Nevertheless, when an employer chooses to hire a younger person for a job when older people applied for the same position, it does necessarily constitute age discrimination. There are certain red flags that suggest that age may have played a factor in the hiring decision. For example, if an older applicant has the qualifications the job advertisement asked for but a younger person without them is hired, this could be a sign that the employer unfairly discriminated based on age. Some employers also specifically recruit younger workers, though they may use surreptitious methods to do this such as recruiting exclusively through colleges or requiring that applicants have less than a certain number of years of experience.

A lawsuit brought against Pricewaterhouse Coopers by a 53-year-old accountant alleges that the company has practiced age discrimination by primarily recruiting through college campuses and not posting entry-level accounting positions on its website. The company claims that the age-discrimination law does not apply to hiring decisions.

In some states, Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ contention of is true based on a decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. In an age discrimination case against R.J. Reynolds, the Court ruled that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act only applies to employees, not job applicants. The 11th Circuit Court covers the states of Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

Pending bipartisan legislation, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, would make it easier to prove occurrences of workplace age discrimination. In addition to bipartisan support, this federal legislation has been endorsed by the AARP.

Older people are one of the several classes protected by federal law against discrimination in the workforce. Other types of bias that are forbidden by law include job discrimination based on a person’s race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability or national origin.