As a study reported on by the San Francisco Chronicle reported, people over 40 can find rampant age discrimination in the workplace. The study found that they are not hired as often, but that is not where the discrimination ends. Companies will sometimes try to maneuver older employees out of the workforce or favor younger workers for promotion and compensation. Finding out if a company is indulging in this before an employee suffers from it is important. While it is always hard to prove discrimination of any type, there will be a few signals that an employee will see when they are victims of it.
Age discrimination is illegal both at the federal and the state level. The Age Discrimination Act of 1967 was passed at the federal level for the Department of Labor to stop employers from discriminating against people over 40 when they hire, fire, or compensate employees. They are not supposed to discriminate against people over 40 with the terms and conditions that they offer, or when they choose who to promote either. This law applies to all companies that employ more than 20 people. The State of California has its own anti-age discrimination law, and it applies to any company that has more than 5 people.
You might have grown up with the phrase ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’ Well, in the case of employers practicing age discrimination, words can definitely hurt. Comments from the boss are one sign of impending age discrimination. Is the boss asking when you will retire? Are people ‘playfully’ calling you ‘Gramps?’ Sometimes the boss will start aggressively teasing you about your age in the hope that you will quit without getting your retirement benefits. This isn’t people being mean. This is your boss declaring that he or she prefers younger workers.
Non-verbal cues can be equally telling. Does the boss hang out with the younger workers? Does everybody they hire look to be about 30? Do older workers who apply for higher positions always seem to be passed over in favor of those new 30-something employees, even if they are less experienced?
Probably the biggest signs that you are personally being singled out for age discrimination are that you get reassigned to unpleasant jobs and your performance reviews suddenly take a downward turn. Companies looking to get rid of more expensive older workers will give crummy reviews to justify not giving promotions and raises that people should have. (Speaking of raises, some companies have a cap on how much they will pay someone for a given job, and you may have already reached that cap so that they don’t need an excuse to not give you a raise. On the other hand, if you aren’t at that level and suddenly aren’t getting raises that you are owed, that’s a sign of age discrimination, too.) The job transfers are classic harassment: they make the target’s work life miserable so that they leave.
Your First Steps
If you suspect that you are a victim of age discrimination, there are things that you can do. First, when your boss starts asks about when you are retiring or you see other signs, write it down. Email your boss to clarify that you are not planning on retiring soon at all and document other incidents. Find out what your company’s harassment policy is and follow their procedures for reporting it. If you have been fired, demoted, or suspended because of age discrimination, you have 180 days to file charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They have an online form now that really automates the process, but you can also bring charges by going to a local EEOC office or mailing in a charge. You can also start the process by calling them at 1-800-669-4000. Just have handy your contact information, your employers contact information, a short description of the discriminatory action, an explanation of why you think it is discriminatory, and be prepared to add your signature to any mail you send.
It might also help to contact a lawyer that specializes in employment law. They can have sage advice about your case and how to make sure you get some compensation.
If you think that you have been denied a promotion, are being harassed or are otherwise a victim of age discrimination at work, feel free to contact Aiman-Smith & Marcy for more information. We are a law office that specializes in consumer fraud, class actions, and, of course, employment law. And we’re medium-sized so we can focus our expertise on clients that we take on. We do our best to get our clients justice.