The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects people over 40 from being harassed or mistreated at work. Specifically, the law prohibits employers from treating an older worker unfavorably in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, salary, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits, and other practices.
Despite these federal protections, an AARP study found that nearly two-thirds of American workers have either experienced or observed age discrimination in the workplace. In another survey, around 1 in 3 workers suspected their age prevented them from getting a job after 40, and more than a quarter of participants believed they were at risk of losing their jobs because of their age.
While some instances of age discrimination are obvious, most workers aren’t sure when an employer’s action crosses the line. As a result, many people with valid discrimination claims never come forward.
At the Employment and Consumer Law Group, we believe every worker needs to know how to recognize the signs of age discrimination in the workplace. Look out for the following five warning signs:
- Harassment – Jokes, comments, or insults about your age could be signs of age discrimination. This is one of the grayer areas, because minor teasing or isolated instances of age-related harassment may not meet the legal requirements to qualify as age discrimination. However, if the demeaning comments create a hostile work environment or lead to discriminatory decision-making regarding promotions, an employee may have a valid age harassment claim.
- Being Encouraged or Forced Into Early Retirement – Older workers may be offered early retirement packages or notice that they are slowly phased out of job projects or lose responsibilities that once belonged to them. It’s more expensive to pay salary and benefits to older workers, which can lead companies to favor the hiring of younger workers once an older employee leaves. Even asking about someone’s retirement plans could be grounds for a legal claim unless the employee brings it up first.
- Poor Performance Reviews – Negative performance reviews or suddenly being placed on “probation” at work after consistently receiving positive reviews could signify an employer looking for a reason to legally terminate a worker’s employment.
- Hiring Younger Workers – You might notice a pattern of employers hiring younger workers. You might even hear comments about bringing a “younger or fresh perspective” to the job. Older workers may face a bias against younger workers who are considered more “tech-savvy.” Plenty of workers over 40 are capable and adaptable enough to work with new technology, despite this invalid assumption.
- Demotions – Workers who are reassigned to less challenging positions or given a lighter workload may also be experiencing age discrimination.
Keep in mind that there are instances where ADEA does allow employers to make some decisions where there could be a harmful impact on older workers compared to younger ones. However, the employer would be required to show substantial proof that the policy or practice was a business necessity. This is referred to as a “reasonable factor other than age” (RFOA) and only applies in specific circumstances, so it’s important to contact an age discrimination lawyer to determine whether an RFOA argument is a legitimate defense.
Contact a Nashville Age Discrimination Lawyer Today
The Employer and Consumer Law Group focuses exclusively on protecting the rights of hardworking employees throughout Tennessee. If you suspect you’re the victim of age discrimination in Nashville, you could be entitled to compensation. Call or contact us for a free consultation.