Age discrimination occurs in the workplace when an employee or potential employee is treated differently due to age, and it adversely impacts their employment or employment opportunities. There may be legal recourse options for those that are facing such discrimination. However, first, it is helpful to know the signs of age discrimination and how to recognize them.
Signs of Age Discrimination
There are many signs of age discrimination. Here are a few examples that may indicate age discrimination in the workplace:
- There are verbal references to age, such as being called old or told you are past your prime years.
- Younger persons receiving promotions over you despite you being better qualified. This will depend on the specific job but may include when you have more years experience, a history of better performance and evaluations, a high revenue from successful projects with clients, a longer time with the company, etc.
- Younger persons at the same organization are reprimanded less than you for similar performance.
- Questions are brought up regarding your plans on retiring and when you will retire.
- Younger persons receive better treatment, such as lighter workloads, higher pay or bonuses, kinder treatment from work superiors, etc., that do not seem attributed to performance as compared to how you are treated and your performance.
- The company or management is discussing how they want a younger look.
- Termination with no reason provided (or a poor one) that is not performance-related or part of layoffs is another sign, especially when younger persons with similar or worse performance are not terminated.
- Termination without cause when you are close to becoming eligible for certain age-related benefits, such as severance pay or a pension plan, is also a sign.
- Questions are being asked about your age, including your birthday or the year you graduated from high school, college, or higher education institutions when there is no legitimate reason to ask such questions.
- The company provides training, mentorship, programs, or other opportunities only to younger employees that are not made available to other employees based on age or number of years in the workforce.
- Company events appear tailored to a younger crowd.
- A trend of early retirements, such as persons retiring at an early age or earlier than when they seemed ready and willing, at your company may indicate the possibility that employees are being encouraged or even forced into early retirement.
- Jokes or comments related to age, such as appearance or activity level, are common in the company.
Age discrimination can also happen during the hiring process. Potential employers should not ask for a candidate’s age during a job interview. Also, job postings may discriminate on age by requesting that applicants apply with a college email or stating a maximum number of years in the workforce or since graduating college. Comments about age may also be a sign of age discrimination.
Not All Signs Are Necessarily Support for Unlawful Age Discrimination
The signs listed above are only examples and may not always be due to age discrimination. There needs to be some adverse action that is due to your age and negatively impacts your employment or employment opportunities. Consult an employment attorney if you are unsure of what may be considered age discrimination.
Keep Documentation of Any Signs of Age Discrimination
Age discrimination is not very easy to prove. Knowing the signs and keeping records of instances supporting possible discrimination against you based on age is a good idea if you are considering taking action. This documentation will help you should you consider taking legal action or filing a complaint with equal employment agencies for unlawful discrimination.
If you are experiencing signs of age discrimination or believe there may be instances in which you were discriminated against due to age, then you should keep detailed documentation of these instances. This documentation should include details of what happened, when it happened, and who was involved (names of coworkers, superiors, managers, or the company name and the names of interviewers if it is for a job application).
You should also include information on what adverse action resulted that appeared to be based on age. Additionally, you should document when the company gives preferential treatment to coworkers for what seems to be age-related reasons.
Pay Attention to Your Company’s Policies
When maintaining your documentation of possible signs that you are the target of age discrimination, do not violate any company policies. For example, do not include confidential information or use company property. This may include saving copies of internal company emails to your private email.
Company policies can also prove helpful in determining whether some adverse action against you or preferential treatment towards others may be due to age. For example, company policies on retirement, benefits, hiring and firing, and promotions may show relevant factors the company considers in making these decisions. This can help determine if the company took adverse actions against you based on your age or if they took those actions for other legitimate reasons.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects persons 40 years of age and older from age discrimination in certain instances. It doesn’t cover employees for companies with fewer than 20 employees or independent contractors. Employees for the following are covered by the ADEA:
- companies with 20 or more employees,
- labor unions of at least 25 members,
- employment agencies
- federal, state, or local government
Age discrimination against employees for these organizations, who are also 40 years of age or older, is prohibited by the ADEA, during all phases of the employment process. This includes hiring, promotions, disciplinary actions, promotions, terms of employment, compensation, bonuses, and termination.
Some states also have laws that offer protection from age discrimination. These may provide additional options for affected persons to seek remedies beyond the ADEA or for persons that otherwise would not be covered by the ADEA, such as employees younger than 40 or working for small organizations.
There needs to be evidence of harassment, favoritism, exclusion, or unfair discipline that negatively impacted your employment to prove that unlawful age discrimination occurred.
What Can I Do If I Am Facing Age Discrimination?
If you have been the victim of age discrimination at the workplace and are covered by the ADEA (at least 40 years of age and an employee for a covered organization), then you may file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Office (EEOC). An employment lawyer may help you file a lawsuit. If you are unsure of your options or whether you are facing unlawful age discrimination, you should consult an attorney.
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