State of Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s Fair Employment Law
Department of Workforce Development
Equal Rights Division
#6 in a Series
Civil Rights Bureau
Age Discrimination in the Workplace
Age Discrimination Protections
State and federal law protects most workers age 40 and older from workplace discrimination. Wisconsin’s Fair
Employment Law sections 111.31-111.395, Wisconsin Statutes apply to virtually all private and public
employers, regardless of the number of employee’s.
Federal age protections are contained in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, known as the ADEA. The
ADEA applies only to employers with 20 or more workers.
As with other protected classes such as race, national origin, sex, and disability, Wisconsin’s legislature
declared that discrimination against qualified older workers unfairly denies their right to gainful employment.
While state law promotes employment of older persons based on their ability rather than their age, employers
may terminate a worker, irrespective of age, if he or she is physically or otherwise unable to perform essential
job duties. However, an employer may be required to make a reasonable accommodation for a worker who
is unable to perform essential job functions because of a disability.
What actions are covered?
State law protects older workers against discrimination in discharge, job assignments, leave or benefits,
licensing, retirement benefits, hiring, pay, promotion, training and other employment actions.
The law also prohibits an employer from retaliating against applicants or employees who assert their rights
under the law. Employers are also responsible for ensuring that older workers are not harassed on the job
because of their age. Unlawful harassment may include persistent remarks about a person’s age or other
behavior, which interferes with a person work performance or otherwise creates an intimidating, hostile or
offensive work environment.
Is everyone protected based on his or her age?
No, the law doesn’t protect