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Up Against the Age Limit for Federal Jobs in Law Enforcement?

Dear Advisor:

I am over 48 years old and trying to land a job in Federal law enforcement. I can’t seem to crack it. Federal Agencies limit the age of new law enforcement hires to 37. So let me ask, is this legal? Isn’t this a form of age discrimination? I noticed that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has openings for the position of Correction Officer. I note also that the Border Patrol is expanding. However, I see that I am too old to apply for either position.

Second question: Do these age restrictions apply to law enforcement only? I retired one year ago from the Atlanta Police Department after 20 years of service. When I retired, I had anticipated going into business for myself. My business did not work out and now I’m looking for employment again. I have a wealth of knowledge I could bring to the correctional position, but because of an arbitrary rule cannot do so.

I would appreciate any advice you have for me in my situation. Thank you for your help.


Atlanta GA

Dear D.S.:

The Federal government does not have an age ceiling. In fact, Title 5 U.S.C. 3307(a) prohibits the establishment of a maximum entry age for Federal positions, except as provided in certain circumstances. Unfortunately in your case, the exception is a problem. The “certain circumstances” to which the law applies include Air Traffic Controller positions, U.S. Park Police, and any positions involving Law Enforcement Officers or Fire Fighters. Likewise, under U.S.C. 633(a) Agencies may establish a maximum age requirement, if the Agency can prove that age is a bona fide occupational qualification necessary for the performance of the duties of the position. In the case of Corrections Officers, the physical demands of the position legally permit an age limitation: 37.

There are no exceptions to this rule that we have been able to find. Even for those with veteran’s preference the age restriction is not waived. In fact, the rule has been challenged on many occasions and has been upheld in the courts every time.

On the other hand, your experience as a police officer may qualify you for an investigative position in the 1800 series. There are 23 different job titles in this series and not all of them have age limitations.

Law Enforcement Jobs Which
Do Not Have Age Limitations
Security Guard GS 0085
General Inspector, Investigation and Compliance GS 1801
General Investigating GS 1810
Consumer Safety Inspector GS 1862
Food Inspector GS 1863

One of the biggest occupations with no age limit is General Investigating Series GS 1810. GS 1810 is described as follows:

“The GS 1810 series includes positions that involve planning and conducting investigations covering the character, practices, suitability, or qualifications of persons or organizations seeking, claiming, or receiving Federal benefits, permits, or employment when the results of the investigation are used to make or invoke administrative judgments, sanctions, or penalties. These positions require primarily a knowledge of investigative techniques, a knowledge of the laws, rules, regulations and objectives of the employing Agency; skill in interviewing, following leads, researching records, and preparing reports; and the ability to elicit information helpful to the investigation from persons in all walks of life.”

If you have detective experience, that would be helpful in qualifying for the GS 1810 series occupations. Many of the GS 1800 series positions open regularly and are reported in the Vacancy Listings of Federal Jobs Digest.

Finally, you should be aware of GS 0085 Security Guard positions, hired by General Services Administration, which oversees security at Federal buildings. GS 0085 positions are regularly reported in the Vacancy Listings of Federal Jobs Digest, and these do not have age requirements.

However, most of the security personnel employed through GSA (there are thousands), are not actually Federal employees, but are contract workers, hired through contracts with private sector companies that specialize in supplying security personnel. The larger, well known security companies usually get the Federal contracts, and these firms are known to regularly hire retired police officers such as yourself. You might want to look into this. Of course, contract workers are not entitled to the health benefits and government pensions offered to civil service employees, but have their benefits provided by their private sector employer at its discretion.

To submit questions to the Federal Jobs Advisor, write to: Federal Jobs Advisor, Federal Jobs Digest, 1503 Radcliff Court, Newtown Square PA 19073. We regret that not all questions may be answered. •