What Age Discrimination Looks Like
The signs of age discrimination can sometimes be subtle, but there are many elements that a worker can take note of, for they can definitely qualify as discrimination against the older employee
- Comparisons — compare how younger employees are treated, and if they are treated differently than the older employee, a discrimination may be occurring.
- Comments Biased Against Age – when the worker is addressed by “age-weighted” words in a business context, the speaker may be showing a bias against age. “Grandpa” outside a family reference context is not an appropriate term for work.
- Promotions – when an older, more experienced and capable employee is passed over for a promotion they have applied for, in favor a younger, less experienced, less qualified worker, age discrimination may be in play
- Uneven Discipline – when an older employee is disciplined for actions that younger employees are not rebuked for, age discrimination is likely to be a factor
- Favoritism – when it is generally clear that a supervisor favors younger employees over the older ones, especially when it comes to promotions, commissions or bonuses, age discrimination will be a factor
- Sudden Changes in Competence Reviews – when supervisors suddenly begin to treat the employee as lacking knowledge and capability after years of favorable reviews, age discrimination could be affecting the situation
When any of these factors appear to be affecting an older employee’s work situation, that person should start taking detailed notes of the instances; dates, times, and the people involved should all be recorded in the notes. Documenting events that fall into these categories is an important element of showing that discrimination is occurring in the work place.
Discrimination versus Harassment
One of the key things to remember is that in the law there can be a distinction between Discrimination and Harassment. What it boils down to is that if the behaviors do not involve an effect on the employee’s wallet, the behavior will likely be considered harassment. There are different remedies for discrimination and harassment, and different procedures for the employee to follow. Again, seeking advice from a lawyer specializing in the issues is important in these situations.
There are legal protections for the older employee. In 1967, President Johnson signed into law the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. This law forbids employment discrimination against anyone 40 years of age or older. Additional protections are defined in amendments to the ADEA, as well as in the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act. These laws provide guidelines for areas where the older employee can reasonably expect to have their rights upheld.
Employers should be aware of these protections, but that doesn’t mean that individual supervisors won’t disregard them. But the laws are in place to make sure that a worthy employee does not lose ground simply because they’ve acquired additional years above some imaginary threshold.
Stand for Your Rights
If you are an older worker who is suddenly (or gradually) finding that advancement in your workplace is slipping out of grasp, you may be the victim of age discrimination. Short of true disability brought on by age (an infrequent thing in reality), you ought to be able to expect that your experience and competence should be valued over that of a new, inexperienced and younger worker. If you find that the circumstances are turning against you as you add years to your resume, seek the advice of a discrimination attorney.