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Age Discrimination Act Requirements

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has the responsibility for the Age Discrimination Act as it applies to Federally funded health and human services programs. The general regulation implementing the Age Discrimination Act requires that age discrimination complaints be referred to a mediation agency to attempt a voluntary settlement within sixty (60) days. If mediation is not successful, the complaint is returned to the responsible Federal agency, in this case the Office for Civil Rights, for action. OCR next attempts to resolve the complaint through informal procedures. If these fail, a formal investigation is conducted. When a violation is found and OCR cannot negotiate voluntary compliance, enforcement action may be taken against the recipient institution or agency that violated the law.

The Age Discrimination Act permits certain exceptions to the prohibition against discrimination based on age. These exceptions recognize that some age distinctions in programs may be necessary to the normal operation of a program or activity or to the achievement of any statutory objective expressly stated in a Federal, State, or local statute adopted by an elected legislative body.

Applicable Regulatory Citations:

45 CFR Part 91: Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Age in Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance From HHS

§ 91.3 To what programs do these regulations apply?

(a) The Act and these regulations apply to each HHS recipient and to each program or activity operated by the recipient which receives or benefits from Federal financial assistance provided by HHS.
(b) The Act and these regulations do not apply to:
(1) An age distinction contained in that part of a Federal, State, or local statute or ordinance adopted by an elected, general purpose legislative body which:
(i) Provides any benefits or assistance to persons based on age; or
(ii) Establishes criteria for participation in age-related terms; or
(iii) Describes intended beneficiaries or target groups in age-related terms.

Subpart B-Standards for Determining Age Discrimination

§ 91.11 Rule against age discrimination.

The rules stated in this section are limited by the exceptions contained in §§91.13 and 91.14 of these regulations.

(a) General rule: 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 receiving Federal financial assistance.
(b) Specific rules: A recipient may not, in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, directly or through contractual licensing, or other arrangements, use age distinctions or take any other actions which have the effect, on the basis of age, of:
(1) Excluding individuals from, denying them the benefits of, or subjecting them to discrimination under, a program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
(2) Denying or limiting individuals in their opportunity to participate in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
(c) The specific forms of age discrimination listed in paragraph (b) of this section do not necessarily constitute a complete list.

§ 91.13 Exceptions to the rules against age discrimination: Normal operation or statutory objective of any program or activity.

A recipient is permitted to take an action, otherwise prohibited by § 91.11, if the action reasonably takes into account age as a factor necessary to the normal operation or the achievement of any statutory objective of a program or activity. An action reasonably takes into account age as a factor necessary to the normal operation or the achievement of any statutory objective of a program or activity, if:

(a) Age is used as a measure or approximation of one or more other characteristics; and
(b) The other characteristic(s) must be measured or approximated in order for the normal operation of the program or activity to continue, or to achieve any statutory objective of the program or activity; and
(c) The other characteristic(s) can be reasonably measured or approximated by the use of age; and
(d) The other characteristic(s) are impractical to measure directly on an individual basis.

§ 91.14 Exceptions to the rules against age discrimination: Reasonable factors other than age.

A recipient is permitted to take an action otherwise prohibited by § 91.11 which is based on a factor other than age, even though that action may have a disproportionate effect on persons of different ages. An action may be based on a factor other than age only if the factor bears a direct and substantial relationship to the normal operation of the program or activity or to the achievement of a statutory objective.

§ 91.15 Burden of proof.

The burden of proving that an age distinction or other action falls within the exceptions outlined in §§ 91.13 and 91.14 is on the recipient of Federal financial assistance.