Age Discrimination in Washington State

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Gregory A. Williams, Esq.

Williams Law Group, P.S.

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by Gregory Williams, Esq. | Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), what are the limitations for “age” as a protected class? Here’s my point of view (please review our disclaimer before proceeding).


It’s unlawful to discrimination in Washington State based on age; but one must be within the proper age group to claim discrimination under WLAD. Generally, Washington’s prohibition against age discrimination is contained in RCW §49.60.205 as follows:

Age discrimination—Limitation. No person shall be considered to have committed an unfair practice on the basis of age discrimination unless the practice violates RCW 49.44.090. It is a defense to any complaint of an unfair practice of age discrimination that the practice does not violate RCW 49.44.090.



Section RCW §49.44.090, as referenced above, states as follows:

It shall be an unfair practice:

(1) For an employer or licensing agency, because an individual is forty years of age or older, to refuse to hire or employ or license or to bar or to terminate from employment such individual, or to discriminate against such individual in promotion, compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment: PROVIDED, That employers or licensing agencies may establish reasonable minimum and/or maximum age limits with respect to candidates for positions of employment, which positions are of such a nature as to require extraordinary physical effort, endurance, condition or training, subject to the approval of the executive director of the Washington state human rights commission or the director of labor and industries through the division of industrial relations.

(2) For any employer, licensing agency or employment agency to print or circulate or cause to be printed or circulated any statement, advertisement, or publication, or to use any form of application for employment or to make any inquiry in connection with prospective employment, which expresses any limitation, specification or discrimination respecting individuals forty years of age or older: PROVIDED, That nothing herein shall forbid a requirement of disclosure of birth date upon any form of application for employment or by the production of a birth certificate or other sufficient evidence of the applicant’s true age after an employee is hired.

Nothing contained in this section or in RCW 49.60.180 as to age shall be construed to prevent the termination of the employment of any person who is physically unable to perform his or her duties or to affect the retirement policy or system of any employer where such policy or system is not merely a subterfuge to evade the purposes of this section; nor shall anything in this section or in RCW 49.60.180 be deemed to preclude the varying of insurance coverages according to an employee’s age; nor shall this section be construed as applying to any state, county, or city law enforcement agencies, or as superseding any law fixing or authorizing the establishment of reasonable minimum or maximum age limits with respect to candidates for certain positions in public employment which are of such a nature as to require extraordinary physical effort, or which for other reasons warrant consideration of age factors.

Id. (emphasis added).

Thus, one must be at at least forty years old to claim age discrimination in WA under the WLAD.

L E A R N   M O R E

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