Age discrimination within the workplace may be subtle or be covered by jokes, but it’s still very real, and you can do something about it once you know what to look for! Here are eight signs of age discrimination in the workplace and what you can do about it.
What is Age Discrimination?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines age discrimination as when an employee or job applicant is treated less favorably because of age. Age discrimination can happen to younger and older people, but only people over age 40 are protected on the national level through the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). However, some state laws protect younger employees.
How Common is Age Discrimination in the Workplace?
About 45,000 employees in the United States have filed age discrimination claims with the EEOC between 1997 and 2020. Workplace age discrimination claims comprised 22% of ALL allegations reported to the EEOC in 2020. Overall, about one in five workers over 40 and one in four workers over 60 have personally experienced age-related discrimination at work. While age discrimination against younger employees does occur, it’s not nearly as common as discrimination towards older workers.
Signs of Workplace Age Discrimination
Younger Ones Replace Older Employees
Employers may eliminate positions of older workers or lay off employees only to hire younger workers in very similar positions with some minor adjustments. Another example would be that all the recent new hires are on the younger side. Employers may do this so they “technically” skirt the anti-discrimination laws.
Older Employees Are Offered Buyouts or Encouraged to Retire Early
Your employer could offer older workers attractive buyouts to leave the company “voluntarily.” Employers hope older employees will take the buyout. Still, it’s no different from pushing them out, except buyouts incentivize them to leave their position so they won’t get sued for age discrimination.
Employers and Coworkers Make Comments About Your Age
Jokes and remarks about one’s age may be used as a way to get someone to quit when they can’t legally be fired. Even in jest, derogatory remarks about people’s ages are ageism. These comments could come in the form of questions about retirement plans or comments on their memory. If your employer is taking shots about your age, such as using nicknames, implying you don’t understand technology, or purposefully excluding you from conversations, this can be considered harassment.
Professional Development Opportunities are Offered to Younger Employees but Not Older Employees
Older workers can appreciate professional development and learning opportunities just as much as younger employees. Suppose an employer reserves these training, workshops, and experiences for younger employees. In that case, the implication is that older workers are nearing the end of their careers and don’t want to build their skills.
Older Employees are Often Passed Over for Promotions
Another indication of age discrimination is noticing that older employees are frequently passed over for promotion in favor of younger ones who haven’t been with the company for a long time, assuming the older employees are more qualified than their younger counterparts.
Older Employees are Reassigned or Demoted
Another way employers try to skirt anti-discrimination laws is by demoting or reassigning employee positions rather than outright firing them. If their performance hasn’t suffered, then these demotions could be more about the company’s desire to replace them with younger employees than the employee’s work performance.
Older Employees Face Harsher Punishments Than Younger Employees
Employees deserve the same treatment, no matter their age. While critiques are sometimes warranted, the level of criticism for similar mistakes should be the same for every employee. For example, feedback on work performance for younger employees is helpful and constructive, while feedback for older employees is harsh and negative. Another example would be your boss putting you on an improvement plan even though you’ve consistently been a high-quality employee.
Your Employer Lays Off People Over a Certain Age
If everyone in the last round of layoffs was over 40, you have a solid age discrimination lawsuit. However, it can be harder to prove if they mix in younger employees in the layoffs to hide age discrimination.
What Can I Do If I Experience Workplace Age Discrimination?
You can do a few things if you suspect you’re experiencing workplace age discrimination. First, it is essential to know your rights and learn more about the ADEA and its policies. Removing proof of age from resumes (such as jobs over 15 years old or specific dates) and LinkedIn profiles is also suggested. Lastly, keep track of every occurrence and who was involved to strengthen your case. Take your proof to the EEOC or hire an experienced elder law attorney to fight for you!
Our expert attorneys at Michaelson Law understand how difficult it can be to experience age discrimination, and we will do everything possible to ensure you’re adequately compensated and your employer is held accountable. Call Michaelson Law today!