Age discrimination in the workplace is a widespread problem in all states and industries. Despite being illegal, it is quite common and often goes unreported. This is especially true when age-based harassment happens, often leading to a hostile work environment and employees being demoted or fired. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) is the primary law that stops employers from practicing such adverse behavior.
The ADEA law prohibits age discrimination against employees over the age of 40. It applies to companies with at least 20 employees, labor organizations with at least 25 members, employment agencies, and local, federal, and state governments. However, independent contractors, military personnel, and people under the age of 40 are not covered by the ADEA. Although the ADEA seeks to protect employees against age discrimination, in some cases, it can be allowed if an employer can objectively justify it.
In this article, we will discuss what drives age discrimination and what to do if you experience it in your workplace.
What is the Cause of Age Discrimination in the Workplace?
Age discrimination in the workplace happens when companies, managers, and co-workers show negative attitudes towards a certain employee because of their age. The employee can be stereotyped as someone unable to complete their job anymore because of their age, or they can be phased out of the company because younger employees are thought to have a better understanding of new tools and modern technology used in business.
Although both younger and older employees can experience ageism, it most commonly impacts those who are over 40 years of age. Unlawful age discrimination includes anything from denying candidates because they’re close to retirement to giving an older employee’s duties to a younger worker. The most common signs of age discrimination at work are:
- Comments and insults about age
- A pattern of hiring younger employees
- Delayed or ignored promotions and raises
- Unequal distribution of benefits
- Being left out of important company functions
- Unjustified forced retirement
- Position elimination
The biggest issue with ageism in the workplace is that, as employees grow older, they have more knowledge and experience under their belt. They know how the specific job was performed years ago, and they know what it is like now. However, companies tend to disregard this fact and may dismiss it for a ‘fresh perspective’ brought in by younger employees.
What Kind of Evidence Do You Need to Prove Age Discrimination in the Workplace?
If you are an older employee working in New York and you feel like you are experiencing age discrimination at your job, don’t take this issue lightly. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is meant to protect you and your employment, however, the burden of proof is on you. In order to properly prove that you’ve been discriminated against based on your age, you should do the following:
1. Document Everything
Obtaining direct evidence is best, but it is often difficult to do so for obvious reasons – employers want to protect themselves. That’s why you should get in the habit of documenting things and saving texts, emails, voicemails, and other company communications. Document any incidents as thoroughly and frequently as possible, especially if they happen in front of other employees. This can be anything from hurtful comments to being denied promotions and opportunities due to your age.
For example, if your employer asks you when you plan to retire, make a note of that or any other unwelcome comment about your age. Keep such notes in a secure place outside of your office.
Another example of useful evidence could be wrongful discipline. If your manager or an employer disciplines you by docking your pay for arriving late to work but allows another younger worker to do the same without pay penalty, document this.
Hiring, firing, and promotions are also examples of ageism. Strong evidence, in this case, would be anything that compares your treatment to another younger employee’s treatment for the same situations. For example, you can request a performance evaluation from your employer and keep it.
Exclusion is another example of age discrimination, and it happens when an employer does not invite certain employees to company events such as meetings, training, conferences, and lunches. This is the most subtle type of ageism in the workplace and possibly the hardest to prove. Contact the person responsible for organizing these events and ask to be included next time. Their response can serve as proof of unlawful age discrimination.
When documenting any type of evidence, do it in detail. Write down the perpetrator’s name, date, time, and type of harassment experienced. The perpetrator can be anyone in the company – a co-worker, another employee, a manager, or an employer.
2. Speak With Your Employer
Once you have documented the incidents, talk to your manager or employer and lay out your causes for concern. You can also submit a report to your human resources department to make it official. This way, you will have a running record showing you have experienced age discrimination.
Once you submit a written report, your employer will have to act and investigate to see if there is any credibility to your claim. Before submitting a report, however, make sure the situation actually involves employment discrimination. Your employer may say mean things, but they are not violating the law unless the comments are discriminatory. You must also follow the steps outlined in your company’s employee handbook.
3. Take Legal Action
If the issue persists, is more severe, or your employer doesn’t want to stop the discrimination, you should look into potential legal action. You can report age discrimination to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or contact a professional and experienced employment attorney.
Losing your job after you’ve spent most of your life in a company can be traumatizing. It is completely unacceptable for companies to discriminate against employees based on their age, not to mention it is illegal, too. Whether your company wants to let you go so they can hire a younger employee, or they’re looking to remove ‘old energy’ from the workplace, you can put a stop to it.
To find out whether you have a case worth pursuing, feel free to contact Cilenti & Cooper today. We treat every case with the attention and care it deserves and can fight for your rights from beginning to end. We offer a free consultation to all of our prospective clients, so you have nothing to lose.