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The Sometimes-Subtle Face of Age Bias


The Sometimes-Subtle Face of Age Bias

Over 40? Here’s what you need to know about age discrimination

“You’re not a good fit with our culture.”

“We need people with youthful energy running the organization.”

“We don’t have room for dinosaurs around here.”

These are all statements that could put anyone over a “certain age” on notice that their job may not be all that secure.

Age discrimination can be one of the most-subtle forms of employment discrimination. Older workers may have a vague sense that they’re being pushed aside, but they may be unsure they would have enough evidence to prove it.

That’s why it’s important to know what the law says about age discrimination – and what you should do if you believe you’ve been a victim.

Protection begins at 40

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is the federal law that offers protection from age discrimination. In general, this law applies to job applicants and employees who are over the age of 40.

Most – but not all – employers must comply with the ADEA. For example, some small companies may be exempt. Employers that must comply include:

  • private employers with 20 or more employees
  • the federal government
  • state and local governments (including school districts)
  • employment agencies
  • labor organizations

Age discrimination may be perpetrated by a supervisor, a colleague, or even a customer.

What the ADEA says

The ADEA is not all about failure-to-hire or termination. Rather, it offers protection from age discrimination in a variety of ways.

The ADEA spells out that workers over 40 are protected from age discrimination in regard to any term, condition, or privilege of employment. That may include things such as compensation, benefits, assignments, and/or professional training.

The ADEA also offers protection from retaliation. That means that employees who oppose age discrimination (that was either directed at themselves or another worker) may not be “punished” for doing so.

Teasing or discrimination?

As with many aspects of the law, claims of age discrimination may contain some gray areas.

For example, teasing or offhand comments about age may not necessarily be considered evidence of age discrimination.

However, if those comments are offensive or harassing, then they may be unlawful. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission points out that unlawful discrimination is often characterized by a frequency or severity that creates a hostile work environment, or when a person over 40 suffers an adverse employment action.

What you need to know

Many states and municipalities have their own legislation dealing with age discrimination. If you feel that you’ve been treated unlawfully due to your age, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney who’s licensed to practice in your state.

Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.

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