Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Ageism, or age discrimination in the workplace, is a problem in many countries and industries. Although it is common, it is also illegal in many ways. This is especially true if age-based harassment occurs, which can often result in a hostile work environment and victims being fired or demoted.

As a result, the ADEA law – which prohibits age discrimination against people over the age of 40 – applies to companies with at least 20 employees, employment agencies, labor organizations with at least 25 members, and local, federal, and state governments.

However, military personnel, independent contractors, and people under the age of 40 are not covered by the ADEA. An employment policy affects everyone and is illegal if it has a negative impact on applicants or employees and is not based on a reasonable factor other than age (RFOA).

Harassment in the workplace is prohibited by law. Hiring, firing, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, and any other types of work terms are all included. The harasser could be the victim’s supervisor, coworkers, clients, or a supervisor in another department.

What Kind of Evidence Would I Need?

Direct evidence is best but more difficult to obtain for obvious reasons; employers want to protect themselves. It is a good idea to get into the habit of writing things down and saving emails and texts, voicemails, and company communications.

Make a note of it if your employer asks you when you plan to retire or makes unwelcome comments about your age. All of this information should be kept in a secure location that is not in your office.

Another type of evidence could be wrongful discipline. If a manager disciplined you by docking your pay for arriving 30 minutes late to work but allowing another worker to do the same with no pay penalty, document this.

Hiring, promotions, and firing are also examples of age discrimination. Employers these days frequently try to brand themselves as more modern, and with that comes a younger workforce.

This is improper. Again, evidence that compares your treatment to another, younger employee’s treatment for the same situations is stronger. If you suspect age discrimination, request a performance evaluation from your boss and keep it.

If offensive and derogatory comments and other communications about your age are made, you can also try to prove workplace harassment. This could be interpreted as a hostile work environment or as a way for the employer to facilitate negative employment decisions such as demotions and firings.

When documenting any type of proof, make a note of the perpetrator’s name, date, time, and type of harassment experienced. The perpetrator could be a coworker, another employee, or anyone else you come into contact with at work. Make sure to accurately record all of this information and submit a report to your human resources department to make it official.

Exclusion is when employers do not invite certain employees to company events such as conferences, lunches, training programs, and meetings. It is thought to be the most subtle form of age-related workplace discrimination and possibly the most difficult to prove.

You may not even be aware of these events until after they occur, but try to learn as much as you can about them. Contact the person who organizes these events and ask to be included the next time; keep a copy of their response.

What Legal Protection Do I Have Against Workplace Age Discrimination?

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects employees ages 40 and up from workplace age discrimination who work for federal, state, and local governments, private employers with 20 or more employees, labor organizations, and employment agencies.

Workers cannot be discriminated against because of their age in any term, privilege, or condition of employment. This specifically includes:

  • Hiring, firing, layoffs, and promotions.
  •  Compensation and benefits.
  • Training and job assignments.
  • Age harassment is also prohibited.

Equally important, it is against the law to retaliate against employees who oppose such employment practices, file age discrimination charges, testify, or assist with an ADEA investigation, proceeding, or litigation.

The ADEA also protects other areas. For example, employers are not permitted to include age preferences or other limitations in their job advertisements. In addition, they are not allowed to ask an applicant’s date of birth or age during pre-employment inquiries. It is also unlawful to discriminate against apprentices based on their age.

The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (OWBPA) also amended the ADEA that year. This was intended to prevent employers from denying benefits to more mature employees. However, the cost of providing some health benefits to older workers is higher than the cost of providing the same benefits to younger workers, and companies may consider this when hiring.

Are There Different Kinds of Age Discrimination Cases?

Age discrimination in the workplace usually falls into one of two categories: disparate treatment or disparate impact. Employers use disparate treatment when they purposefully target an employee and treat them less favorably based on a protected characteristic, such as age.

This type of age discrimination is usually more obvious because it is always deliberate. Claimants must prove that the discrimination would not have occurred if it had not been for their age.

What exactly is the disparate impact? This includes different types of unintentional discrimination. A company policy or supervisory conduct may negatively and disproportionately impact a protected group.

As an example, if a company laid off a disproportionate number of employees over the age of 50 in the name of “budget cuts.” Another possibility is that only recent college graduates will be hired. The policy must be identified and investigated to establish this type of age discrimination.

These cases can be complicated because there may be legitimate business reasons to lay off older workers if their salaries are significantly higher than those of younger employees. A layoff is the only viable option.

Get the Help of an age discrimination lawyer!

Workplace age discrimination has existed for as long as other types of discrimination, but it is often more difficult to prove because it is more subtle. Moreover, older workers may be more hesitant to report what has happened to them because they are unaware that they are being discriminated against or are afraid of the consequences.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), while nearly 70% of these workers face workplace discrimination, only about 3% file formal complaints. Some are concerned about further discrimination, harassment, or abuse, as well as job loss. There are ways to prove age discrimination and win lawsuits, but you will need evidence.

If you or a family member has been the victim of age discrimination at work, you should contact an experienced California employment lawyer right away. Before filing a charge of age discrimination against an employer, the employee must first file a charge of discrimination with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The filing deadlines are very strict, and one must act quickly to reserve one’s right to sue the employer.

If you have been a victim of age discrimination at work, our experienced lawyers at Khashan Law Firm can explain all of your legal options and assist you in protecting your rights. For a free, confidential consultation, call (951) 461-2387.