How to Spot Age Discrimination at Work
And What To Do About It
Age discrimination may be unlawful, but it is unfortunately very common. According to the AARP, as many as 3 in 5 older employees have either witnessed or been subject to age discrimination at work. And while age discrimination may also affect people perceived as “too young,” it primarily affects older workers.
What Is Age Discrimination?
As common as it is, age discrimination can be very subtle.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) designates age as a “protected characteristic” in the workplace. That means qualifying employers can’t discriminate against employees based on their age—in hiring, firing, work assignments, promotions, or any other career-impacting decision.
At the federal level, age discrimination protections only apply to those aged 40 and older. However, state-level statutes may extend that protection to people of other ages or any age. In New Jersey, for example, age discrimination can legally be said to occur for anyone aged 18 or older.
Age discrimination can be hard to spot, because employers often claim other reasons than age for career-impacting decisions. For instance, it can be difficult to tell whether a younger employee was promoted over an older one based on job performance reasons not related to age. Employers will often insist this is the case if their decisions come under scrutiny.
However, there are some tell-tale signs that can indicate age discrimination in the workplace—despite what employers say.
Signs of Age Discrimination in the Workplace
- A company has large-scale layoffs, and most of the employees let go are above a certain age—despite other stated reasons for the firing decisions.
- The company only offers education and training opportunities to younger employees.
- A majority of lower-level, tedious, or undesirable assignments are given to older employees despite their greater experience.
- Older workers are excluded from important meetings, networking opportunities, or consideration for high-profile projects.
- Assumptions are made that an older employee can work late, take less time off, or work more undesirable shifts because they don’t have young children.
- Older employees are systematically shut out of promotions, raises, and professional opportunities.
- Phrasing is used in job postings that indirectly excludes older workers—for instance, “digital native.”
What Should You Do if You Suspect Age Discrimination in the Workplace?
Age discrimination can be very difficult to prove. However, it’s extremely common. Sometimes, the best strategy is to talk to a knowledgeable employment attorney.
Your lawyer can assess the situation, determine whether age discrimination is taking place, and help you figure out the next steps to take—including in getting restitution from your employer.
Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free, confidential consultation today.
The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.