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Age Discrimination: What It Means and How to Fight Back

Getting older is a good thing. Every birthday is another chance to celebrate all the good things you’ve experienced, and look forward to what the future brings. However, aging can have some unexpected consequences. For instance, older people often face discrimination in the workplace simply because of how old they are.

This kind of discrimination is unpleasant, but it’s not something you have to accept. Older workers are a protected class under federal law, which means you can take legal action if your employer discriminates against you due to your age. Here’s how age discrimination is defined, examples, and tips for fighting back against unfair and illegal biases in the workplace.

What Is Age Employment Discrimination?

Age discrimination is a form of discriminatory behavior in the workplace that’s illegal under federal law. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) into law. The bill defines it as employment discrimination against people 40 or older.

The ADEA was made law after studies showed that older people found it harder to keep working or find new employment after leaving a job due to discriminatory behavior. As a result of the bill, people 40 and older became a protected class similar to gender, race, and religion.

Under the ADEA, it’s illegal to make employment decisions about a person just because they’re over 40. For instance, employers cannot refuse to hire or promote someone because they’re over 40. Neither can they fire someone because they’re too old. Furthermore, companies can’t discriminate against people for training, assignments, or other tasks and responsibilities due to higher age.

Examples of Age Discrimination in the Workplace

There are many ways that an employer may discriminate against you because of how old you are. Some of the most common examples include:

  • Firing to bring in “fresh blood” despite good performance: If you were doing your job well and got fired so your employer could bring in someone younger, that is most likely discrimination.
  • Making assumptions about skills due to age: A common discriminatory opinion is that younger people are better at understanding technology or can work harder. If your employer regularly makes comments or decisions that imply your skills are weak due to your age, they may be discriminating against you.
  • Targeting layoffs based on age: Some employers will perform layoffs that target older workers under the guise of reducing payroll. However, if the layoffs ignore younger people with higher salaries, they may actually be discriminatory.
  • Preferentially giving training, promotions, or assignments to young people: If your company only assigns specific tasks or training to younger people, they are discriminating against you.

Impact of Age Discrimination

All kinds of discrimination are harmful, but age discrimination is the only kind everyone will eventually face. If workers remain active in the workplace from 18 to 65, they will spend most of their careers potentially vulnerable to discriminatory behavior.

This can have a significant impact on your career and your finances. Some of the most significant impacts of age discrimination include:

  • Slowed career progression: Whether you’ve been in your field for decades or started a second career, discrimination based on how old you are can make it harder for you to get promotions or new titles.
  • Unfair terminations: Biased supervisors may fire you despite your performance just because of how old you are.
  • Trouble finding a new job: If you’re looking for a new job, you may struggle due to bias against older applicants.
  • Difficulties saving for retirement: If you’re not progressing in your career or if you’re fired due to your age, you may find it significantly harder to save for retirement and may be forced to remain in the workforce longer than you intended, even while bias due to your age gets stronger.

Fighting Back Against Age Discrimination

If you’ve suffered from discriminatory behavior, you may feel like you don’t have many options. However, there are ways you can fight back. With the proper preparation and technique, you can hold your employer accountable for discriminatory actions. Here’s how.

1. Document the Discrimination You Suffer

If your employer is breaking any kind of employment law, the best thing you can do is document it. Documentation is critical evidence for supporting your complaints or potential legal actions. If you’re being discriminated against, keep notes about:

  • What actions were taken
  • Who was being discriminatory
  • When the incident occurred
  • How you responded

Keep these notes somewhere safe and away from your workplace. You can write them in a physical notebook, keep notes on your phone, or email your personal email. Don’t save them on a company computer, or they may get deleted if you’re fired.

2. File Official Complaints

Another way you can build a paper trail regarding discriminatory behavior is by filing official complaints. You can start with your company’s HR department or the supervisor of the person harming you. Inform them about your issues and how they may violate the ADEA. Save a copy of your reports to prove you attempted to resolve the matter without legal action.

You can also file reports with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if your company doesn’t take your complaint seriously. They may open an investigation into your employer’s behavior.

3. Get Legal Representation

If your company isn’t responding to your concerns, you should contact an experienced age discrimination attorney. A good lawyer will help you build your argument and show your employer that your complaints are serious. They can also help you take legal action if it becomes necessary.

Protect Your Career from Age Discrimination with Expert Help

You’ve put in a lot of time and effort to be a reliable, effective employee. You deserve to have that recognized and not to have your contributions dismissed due to age. If you’re facing discrimination, you can get help from the qualified team at the Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, P.C. Schedule your consultation today to learn how we can help you take action after suffering from discriminatory hiring or employment practices.