What You Need to Know About Age Discrimination in the Workplace
If you think age discrimination is only an issue for people over 65 who work in manual labor, you’re wrong. This form of employment discrimination covers anyone over 40 and it affects white collar and blue collar positions of all levels.
Examples are everywhere and in every profession. Here are two recent cases that made national news:
- A former Ohio State doctor was awarded $100,000 because of an age discrimination claim where he alleged doctors over 40 at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center were treated differently than the younger physicians. He resigned after filing his complaint, citing a “hostile” work environment.
- The College of New Jersey just settled a suit with a former professor who was 67. The dean allegedly told her she “had been around the block many times, in fact around the block quite a few times.” The suit says that he also referred to a new hire as “young,” “innovative” and “fresh blood.”
Age discrimination is becoming such a concern that the governor of California recently signed a bill into law requiring movie sites, like IMDB that list celebrity ages, to remove the birthdates of actors lest the actor face age discrimination in casting.
If you think there’s a possibility you’ve been discriminated against because you’re over 40, there are a few things you need to know:
What Is Age Discrimination?
Age discrimination adversely affects anyone over the age of 40 in regards to hiring, promotions, benefits, and terminating employment. There is no reverse age discrimination for employees under 40. In fact, employers may show preferential treatment in hiring older people over younger without being found guilty of age discrimination.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including state, local, and federal governments.
Things About Employment Discrimination and Age Discrimination that Will Surprise You
Age discrimination is not as obvious as a news anchor being fired because she’s “getting old” and no longer appeals to a younger demographic. There are many ways people are discriminated against. Some are very subtle.
If you’ve ever wanted to begin a new career but thought you were “too old” to be accepted into a professional apprenticeship, you aren’t. An employer cannot discriminate against you due to age. There are a few exceptions dictated in the ADEA (or if the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission designates a specific exception) but for the most part, it is unlawful for an employer to consider you too old to be an apprentice.
Job ads cannot list an age range unless it has been “shown to be a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business.”
You cannot be asked about your age in a job interview. This includes indirect, conversational questions like, what year did you graduate from high school?, how old are your kids? (because age might be able to be inferred by that), or how old were you when X happened?.
Benefits offered must be the same for all similar employees. While it’s more expensive to offer certain benefits like life insurance to older employees than younger ones, the employer cannot offer such benefits to younger, and not older, employees.
Age discrimination is a lot more complex of a situation than someone being told she’s “too old” for the job. It covers unfair treatment of many kinds due to age. If you think you may have been treated differently because of your age, it’s time to talk to someone who can help you make sense of the law. Speak to an employment discrimination attorney at Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. today. The initial consultation is free.