The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects older employees from harassment and discrimination at work. The ADEA covers people over 40 years old. Discrimination still occurs when the victim and perpetrator are both of age.
The law prohibits age discrimination in hiring practices, job assignments, promotions, training, benefits, firing, layoffs and any other aspect of employment.
What does age discrimination look like?
However, even with federal statutory protection, age discrimination still occurs. Everyday signs of age discrimination include getting turned down for a promotion that ended up going to someone younger and less-qualified, hearing age-related insults and noticing the company is only hiring young people.
The law does not prohibit isolated non-serious incidents such as offhand comments or simple teasing. If these small events become so severe or frequent that the workplace turns into an offensive or hostile environment which results in the victim experiencing an adverse employment action (i.e. fired or demoted), this is now illegal harassment.
What to do about age discrimination?
If an employee feels like a victim of age discrimination, he or she can first use the company’s grievance system such as speaking with the human resources department. He or she should document any conversations with upper management and any incidents of discrimination.
If the company’s HR department does not resolve the issues, an aggrieved employee can file a charge with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In age discrimination cases, the plaintiff may file a lawsuit in federal court any time from 60 days after filing the charge and up to 90 days after the EEOC grants a “right to sue” letter.
Overall, ADEA offers workplace protections for employees over 40 years old and those who think they experienced age discrimination should consider the pros and cons of filing suit.