Even though it is forbidden, age discrimination nevertheless occurs in the workplace. Both older and younger workers should be aware of age discrimination, what it looks like, and what you can do to stop it.
What is age discrimination?
Workplace age discrimination occurs when an employee is given a different treatment according to their age.
Hiring, firing, assigning different tasks, paying different salaries, offering different projects or chances, harassing someone, or treating them differently because of their age are all examples of workplace age discrimination.
Age discrimination may affect everyone, regardless of age—whether they are older, younger, or middle-aged—despite the fact that we tend to hear more about it and the older worker.
Age discrimination examples include:
- Making derogatory comments about a worker’s age, such as “Oh, Jim won’t understand; he’s too old to know the latest technology.”
- Refusing to assign work to employees in comparable positions: for instance, declining to give a 23-year-old salesman a client because she is “too young to know what she is doing” and instead providing it to a more senior employee with the same title and background in the industry.
- Rejecting a candidate who is above the age of 50 because the employer believes they “will want to retire in a couple of years.”
- Dismissing an employee due to their advanced age
- Not hiring someone because they are so young.
Because abilities and experience are considered so heavily when making job decisions, age discrimination might be difficult to identify: A worker who is older has more experience than a worker who is younger. A younger employee could possess a distinct set of skills than an older employee.
In the end, prejudice occurs when a choice is chosen largely based on an individual’s age. Discrimination also occurs when two individuals with comparable talents are treated differently based on their age.
Age discrimination laws
Ageism in the workplace is prohibited in organizations with more than 20 employees under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Except for independent contractors, public officials, and members of the armed forces, it is applicable to all workers. Any employee 40 years of age or over is protected from age-based discrimination under this law.
Only senior workers are protected by this law; younger workers are not protected against discrimination. All elements of work, including hiring, firing, salary, promotions, layoffs, job duties, benefits, and training are protected by the law.
If the harassment develops into a pattern of behavior that fosters a hostile work environment, the ADEA also makes it unlawful to harass an employee because he or she is over 40. Retaliating against an employee for disclosing potential age discrimination is prohibited by this statute.
Employers are prohibited under the ADEA from specifying age limitations in employment postings. The only age-related inquiry a potential employer should make is to check that you are older than 18, which is often the minimum age required for a certain position.
It is against the law to deny benefits to older workers or to terminate a worker in order to delay the start of retirement payments, according to the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990, which amended the ADEA.
Age discrimination laws vary from state to state, and many of them only apply to firms with less than 20 employees. Any employee who is 18 years of age or older is covered by age discrimination laws in a number of states.
Are there exceptions to the ADEA?
Even while the ADEA prohibits age discrimination, it allows for some choices to be made that take employees’ older age into account.
For instance, the legislation allows businesses to require senior executives to retire at age 65 if they are eligible for pensions that are higher than a particular threshold.
Additionally, there are exceptions to the age restrictions for air traffic controllers, tenured college academics, police enforcement, and firemen. When a person’s age is necessary for the profession, such as when an actor portrays a youngster on TV, there are also exceptions made.
If you are over 40 and feel you have experienced age discrimination at work, you must first determine if your experience qualifies as discriminatory.
At your place of employment, look for a trend where older employees are regularly treated differently from younger ones:
- Are progressively older workers being let go to make room for younger ones?
- Do younger workers receive favorable assignments and promotions?
- Are assessments of elderly workers’ job performance deteriorating over time?
You should go to your HR department if you see a pattern and believe you are being treated differently due to your age. You must let your employer address any possible discrimination after reporting it.
The following step is to discuss filing a case for age discrimination with a lawyer. Without even filing a case, your lawyer might be able to negotiate a settlement for you, such as a favorable severance package. You have 45 days if you work for the government, or 180 or 300 days (depending on your state) after the claimed discrimination to submit a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to start a lawsuit.
Because the U.S. workforce is becoming older, age discrimination in the workplace is a severe problem that is certain to get worse.