Age Discrimination: Know Your Rights

Along with the wisdom that only experience can supply, ripening age often allows for commensurate increases in salary, seniority, and other job benefits. However, for some companies, cutting these costs may lead to improper treatment of older workers or prospective employees. As such, it is essential for everyone in the workforce to understand the basics of employee age discrimination.

What Is Age Discrimination?

Age discrimination can take many forms. Perhaps the most common example is the firing of an older employee because of his or her age and hiring a younger, generally cheaper replacement. Other instances of age discrimination may include advertising age preferences/limits in job postings, unfairly limiting access to promotions or special trainings on the basis of age and limiting benefits or pay for older workers. Finally, discrimination can surface in the form of comments made in the workplace which disparage individuals due to their age; referring to employees as "dinosaur" or "grandma/grandpa" are examples of this form of discrimination and/or harassment.

Legal Protections

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) is a piece of federal legislation that prohibits age discrimination involving either current employees or job seekers. The ADEA protects those who are 40 or older from discrimination in virtually every aspect of employment, including hiring, advancement, layoffs and salary. Each state has laws outlining similar discrimination protections and procedures. The Florida Civil Rights Act is one such example.

While the ADEA provides broad protections for older workers who can prove they have been treated adversely compared to younger counterparts, it does have some important limitations. First, the ADEA only applies to organizations that employ at least 20 individuals. In addition, under the ADEA, employers may treat older workers differently if they are able to show that it is reasonable for them to do so based on valid needs (for instance, a physically intense job may be denied to aging workers who can no longer meet minimum health requirements).

Additional measures shield certain workers from age discrimination, such as the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (this law applies to employees of all ages who work for any organization or program that receives federal funding). To explore the full range of protection afforded to you by law, contact an experienced employment attorney in your state.

If You Have Been Discriminated Against

If you believe you have been the victim of age discrimination at work or in the hiring process, carefully document each occurrence and consult an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney may be able to help you recover a monetary award, a reinstatement or could work with your employer to ensure that your rights are respected in the future.