An Illinois attorney with 25 years of experience applied for an in-house job at a medical supply company and lost out to a younger lawyer half his age. A group of older workers argue they missed job opportunities because of a financial company’s college-recruiting tactics, and aerospace engineers in Kansas are fighting to get their jobs back.

Such cases of alleged age discrimination abound in federal courts, and a new front has opened up in recent years: claims that employers are biased against older job applicants, not just employees. Plaintiffs have faced challenges in these cases, and advocates for workers suffered a new setback last week when a federal appeals court said the primary law protecting against age discrimination should be construed narrowly. Job seekers such as Dale Kleber, the Illinois lawyer who sued his would-be employer, cannot bring claims.