As an Oregon Employer, Can I require applicants to be 21 yrs or older?

List of Questions Asked on a Job Application

In the state of Oregon, “employers may not … refuse to hire, or otherwise discriminate against an employee in compensation or other terms … because of that person’s age if they are 18 or older.”

But wait! What about serving alcohol?

Great question, a job that requires an employee to obtain a server’s permit and be 21 years or older, is an example of a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOC). In non-legalese/HR speak, this simply means that there is a legitimate, job-related, non-negotiable requirement to be of a specific age or older for this job.

Other examples why an employer would require a specific age could be:

  • Insurance requires drivers of company vehilcles to be of a certain age to be insurable
  • A licence or certification required for the job requires a certain age

But I want to make sure we hire someone ‘more mature,’ and I can’t see anyone 18 – 21 being a good maturity fit for this job.

We get this pushback often. Business owners and managers think they just can’t see a 19 year old doing a good job in a customer service role, or a leadership role, which can be understandable! You don’t need to lean on a specific age though to ensure you’re hiring the right person for the job. Here’s what we reccomend:

  • Other qualifications you require for the job, such as “2 years minimum of experience in a supervisory or leadership role” or “4 years minimum experience in the service industry” will help less experienced candidates self-select
  • If they need a certification or specific education for the job that will likely mean your candidate pool is slightly older than those fresh out of high school
  • Provide a thourhough description of the job in the posting to paint a realistic picture to the candidate of the job expectations and levels of responsibility
  • Utilize good phone screening questions to help determine if a candidate is equiped to do the job “Tell me about a time you made a mistake at your last job and how you handled it”
IMPORTANT: as an employer you can't ask for an applicants age or birth date on an application! You can ask them to confirm if they're 21 or older if that's required or 18 and older. 
For applicants under 18, you will need to confirm their age after hire. More info about hiring minors here

Finally, we encourage you to be open to non-traditional applicants 18 – 20 yrs of age and beyond!

There are some very mature 20 year-olds out there that could be an excellent addition to your team, why would you want to miss out on that? Going into your hiring process with arbitrary requirements like this that have little to no merit when it comes to the job can not only cost you good applicants, but it can lead you to more than age discrimination and into the realm of discrimination against gender, race, religions, sexual orientations, and more. The point of anti-discrimination laws is to nudge employers into being more open minded about who they hire!

You can find a reference to the age law for Oregon here.

Employer Tips