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Age Discrimination: Fighting Back

There have been decades of efforts to eliminate age discrimination in the workplace, but it still exists. Age discrimination occurs when an employee or prospective employee is treated less favorably because of their age. It can be directed at older employees as well as younger employees. Discrimination based on age is illegal, and there are ways employees can combat it.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) was enacted to protect employees and job applicants who are over 40 years old from discrimination based on their age. The ADEA applies to hiring, promoting, discharging, and compensating, as well as the terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

The ADEA applies to employers with at least 20 employees, labor organizations with at least 25 members, the federal government, state and local governments, and employment agencies. In addition to the ADEA, states have their own age discrimination laws, which are often stricter than federal law. Some groups are excluded from the ADEA, such as military personnel, elected officials, and independent contractors.

ADEA Protection

The ADEA forbids employers from using age as a factor when hiring, firing, promoting, demoting, or laying off workers. Additionally, employers are not allowed to specify age requirements or preferences when posting job ads or recruiting employees. Except in limited situations, employers can’t force employees to retire at a certain age.

Employers offering benefits must offer the same benefits to all employees, regardless of age. However, if the cost of certain benefits increases with an employee’s age, the employer may provide the same amount of cost assistance to the older employee as for younger employees. It is unlawful for employers to retaliate against employees who file age discrimination charges against them.

Identifying Age Discrimination

Age discrimination and harassment go beyond mild and infrequent incidents. To be considered discrimination or harassment, the offenses must be serious and frequent enough to create a hostile work environment or result in the victim being demoted, fired, or passed over for promotions. It is unlawful for an employer to force an employee to quit by harassing them.

Signs that a company is practicing age discrimination can include a track record of only hiring young people and promoting younger, less qualified employees over older, more experienced employees. Age discrimination may come in the form of isolating certain employees or excluding them from projects and events. Unfair and unwarranted disciplinary action can also be a form of discrimination.

Filing a Claim

Employees of any age have the right to file a claim if they believe they are the victim of age discrimination. Claims must be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). After a claim has been filed, the EEOC will contact the employer to investigate the claim. If the EEOC determines that the claim has merit, they will issue a right-to-sue notice, and the employee has 90 days to file a lawsuit against the employer.

Retaining competent legal counsel is highly recommended. Contact us today if you believe you are the victim of age discrimination.

This article offers a summary of aspects of elder law and employment law. It is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, please contact our Wichita office at 316-830-5603.

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