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Is age discrimination always illegal?

The federal law ADEA, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, strives to prevent age discrimination in employment. It applies for workers 40 and older, as long as their employer has at least 20 workers. So, someone who is 25 may not necessarily have an age discrimination case.

This person would have to look toward state law to see if a case was possible. In Florida, it may be. The FCRA, Florida Civil Rights Act, covers all workers regardless of their age and applies to employers of 15 or more people. Some local laws go even further. Orlando's anti-discrimination policies, for example, apply to businesses with more than 10 employees, as well as businesses that have five or more workers who put in more than 30 hours a week.

To some people, "reverse age discrimination" may not seem like a real issue. But it does exist and can be troubling. Here are some scenarios.

Harsh treatment

Suppose a 25-year-old worker is constantly late. So is a 55-year-old worker. They have the same manager, and this person does not say or do anything to the older worker. With the younger worker, though, the manager threatens pay cuts and termination, and often refers to the worker as an "irresponsible Millennial." This could possibly be an age discrimination case. Ideally, the employer would have a handbook that details how the company addresses employee tardiness.


Treatment need not be "harsh" to put a worker at a disadvantage. Age discrimination may be occurring if an employer usually reserves its best technology or perks for older employees. Or, perhaps younger employees do not receive an invitation to a work meeting or gathering.

Disrespect in workplace culture

And then there is the workplace culture where younger workers are the subject of discriminatory comments such as, "What an infant", or "You're just a youngster." Even a seeming series of jokes can actually be harassment.

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