Ageism occurs in the workplace every day. If you are an older employee, you may experience your share of age-related comments and jokes at work. However, age discrimination is not a trivial matter and can negatively affect your income, home life, and mental health.
Age discrimination laws generally prohibit unfair treatment in hiring, pay, firing, promotions, and other terms of employment. Therefore, if an employer takes adverse action against you based on your age, they may be breaking the law, and you could have legal recourse.
Morgan & Morgan thinks it is wrong that older workers are treated unfairly or cast aside instead of being recognized for the experience they amassed over many years of employment. If you have experienced age discrimination, you can fight back and could be entitled to compensation. Contact us now to find out more in a free, no-obligation consultation.
Age Discrimination in Numbers
Age discrimination makes up 21 percent of all discrimination claims, with 14,183 age discrimination complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2020. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), a staggering 423,000 workers filed age discrimination complaints between 1997 and 2018.
Almost one in four employees in this country aged 45 and older have been the target of age-related negative comments from coworkers or supervisors. Around three in five older workers have witnessed or experienced workplace age discrimination.
Age Discrimination Laws
America’s workforce is getting older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of workers aged 65 or over has grown by 117 percent in the last 20 years and is projected to grow further. All states have passed their own laws dealing with age discrimination to protect older workers. On a federal level, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) is the primary law dealing with age discrimination.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act
The ADEA protects workers aged 40 and older from age-related workplace discrimination. The act applies to companies with 20 or more employees and generally prohibits employers from discriminating against older workers when hiring, firing, or promoting. In detail, the law prohibits the following discriminatory acts and others:
- Discrimination in the hiring process
- Age discrimination when awarding promotions
- Discriminatory statements relating to an employee’s age
- Unequal treatment regarding training and professional development
- Harassment of older workers
- Unfair treatment regarding wages, terminations, and layoffs
- Harassment of older workers
- Denying benefits to older employees
- Mandatory retirement
If you were wrongfully fired or otherwise wrongly treated at work because you are an older employee, the law is on your side. Morgan & Morgan’s experienced discrimination attorneys could help you get your job back and receive compensation.
Types of Age Discrimination
Ageism at work can take many forms. Some examples include:
- Derogatory comments about older age employees
- Selecting only younger workers for training and promotion opportunities
- Assumptions about older employees being less tech-savvy or less capable
- Layoffs of older workers and hiring younger employees for the same jobs
- Favoring younger applicants in the hiring and recruitment process
Direct Work Discrimination
Direct age discrimination describes being treated unfairly due to your age. For example, if you are denied a promotion because you are an older employee, and the job then goes to a younger and less qualified worker. Another example of direct discrimination is an employer refusing you training while allowing younger employees to participate in training activities.
Indirect Age Discrimination
Indirect discrimination describes company policies or rules that put older employees at a disadvantage. An example could be your employer offering a certain training course only to recent graduates. Indirect age discrimination can also be common during the recruitment process.
However, direct and indirect age discrimination could be lawful when an employer presents an objective justification. If you suspect that you experienced direct or indirect discrimination by an employer, speaking to our attorneys can clarify your legal options and next best steps.
Filing a Discrimination Complaint
The process of filing a discrimination complaint can vary slightly from one state to another. However, your first step is generally filing a written report with the EEOC within 180 days after the discriminatory act happened. The EEOC will then notify your employer and start investigating your claim. The agency may then:
- Ask you and your employer to attend mediation.
- Require a written response from your employer and hand the claim over to an investigator.
- Dismiss the charge if you did not file in time or the EEOC does not have jurisdiction.
If the EEOC decides to take your charge further and investigate, the agency may start gathering relevant documents and interview witnesses. If the EEOC identifies discrimination, the agency will seek a voluntary settlement with your employer. If you and your employer cannot reach a settlement, the EEOC may file suit against your employer.
If the EEOC decides after investigating your claim that discrimination did not happen, you will receive a "Notice of Right to Sue." This notice is required if you want to file a lawsuit against your employer.
The Negative Consequences of Age Discrimination
Age discrimination can take a toll on workers and their families. Older workers may find it challenging to get promoted or change jobs, negatively affecting their income and career prospects. Since older workers can find it tough to get a job, they could experience long periods of unemployment and financial hardship. The negative impacts of age discrimination can then spill over into family life and affect the spouses, life partners, and children of victims.
However, the negative effects of age discrimination are not only restricted to career and income. Workers who suffer from discrimination or harassment at work experience more stress and aggravation, which can impact their well-being. Higher levels of stress are associated with mental health problems, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other health conditions.
Discrimination of older workers can also have a wider impact on society. With an ever-increasing older workforce, decreased productivity and morale due to unfair treatment of older workers could stifle the future economic growth of businesses. All in all, age discrimination is not only immoral and illegal, but it can also have negative consequences for individuals and our entire society.
Compensation You Could Receive
Damages victims of age discrimination could receive will vary, depending on the circumstances of the case. To determine damages, courts will examine the discriminatory behavior and its impact on the victim, among other factors. Damages could include:
- Back pay and front pay, including bonuses, commissions, and benefits.
- Attorney’s fees and legal costs.
- Compensation for any career setback such as a denied promotion or pay rise.
- Awards for emotional pain, inconvenience, and other non-economic losses.
- Medical or counseling expenses incurred as a result of discrimination.
- Out-of-pocket costs such as expenses incurred with a job search.
You could also be entitled to additional damages. Our attorneys can analyze your case and inform you of the worth of your discrimination claim.