What is Age Discrimination?
If you are on my website you are likely over 50 and maybe you have asked “Is age discrimination real?”
Yes it is. However, it is difficult for you to prove it.
This website is all about finding employment and business opportunities. So, I will talk specifically about age discrimination in the workplace.
Age discrimination in the workplace happens when you are the recipient of an adverse employment action because of your age. This includes:
- Reduction in Hours
- Reduction in Responsibilities
Age Discrimination in the Workplace
“Age discrimination in the workplace has always been harder to identify and quantify than race and sex discrimination,” writes Michael Winerip in the New York Times. “Blacks and women have experienced a long history of being underpaid, which researchers can calculate.”
So, why do people, especially in the workplace, discriminate against older people? I suppose it depends on the situation but I think there are consistent reasons.
First of all, our culture (and I am sure many others) obsesses over youth. Conversely, we avoid the representation of older people. After all, people don’t want to think about the aches and pains that might come with age. Further, they view aging as ugly. And, ultimately, it means that you deal with your own mortality.
In the workplace, potential employers are likely to believe that older workers aren’t as flexible or as easy to train. Maybe they think the older job applicant will leave if a better offer comes along. Of course, these reasons are terribly misguided.
Can You Prove Age Discrimination?
According to Legalmatch.com there are two kinds of age discrimination:
- Disparate treatment: An employer intentionally treats you differently because of your age.
- Disparate impact: When a policy (that seemingly appears neutral) has a disproportionately negative impact on older workers.
Federal law says you have a prima facie age discrimination case if you can prove:
- You are 40 years old or older.
- You are qualified for the job.
- Your employer took an adverse employment action.
- Someone substantially younger replaced you.
Furthermore, there are different kinds of evidence you may use to prove your case. Rarely, do you have direct evidence of discrimination. For example, if your boss demotes you because of your age, then that is direct evidence.
However, few people are this stupid and unaware. Actually, it is more likely that you will cite circumstantial evidence such as a pattern of demoting and firing older workers.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) covers federal age discrimination claims. It is a US labor law that forbids discrimination against anyone 40 years or older. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill into law. Depending on where you live, state and municipal laws may also apply.
However, with all this in mind, it is still incredibly difficult to prove discrimination. The 2009 Supreme Court Decision, Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc. made it even harder.
The court ruled against the plaintiffs who claimed they were targets of age discrimination under the Federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
The court held the plaintiffs to a stricter standard of proof than those pursuing claims under other anti-discrimination laws.
Actual Examples of Age Discrimination
Here are a few examples of actual age discrimination:
- In Fresno, California, Timeless Investments, Inc. was conducting business as the EZ Trip Golden State Convenience and Auto/Truck Plaza. In this particular case, the employer passed over older job applicants in favor of younger candidates. This case was easy to prove.
The employer instructed older applicants to write their age at the top of the job application. However, they didn’t ask the younger applicants to do the same. Obviously, this employer was not only prejudiced but also stupid.
Subsequently, the older applicants were denied employment. The EEOC took this case. Then they settled a suit against Timeless Investments, Inc.
- In Hawaii, the EEOC brought suit against Hawaii Healthcare Professionals. Specifically, an employee complained her owner fired her after he made negative remarks about her age. She accused the him of making remarks such as “looks old” “sounds old on the telephone” and “like a bag of bones.” It is amazing that someone in a position of authority would make such remarks.
They gave a monetary award to the plaintiff. Subsequently, they ordered Hawaii Healthcare Professionals to train all staff regarding age discrimination.
- The EEOC filed suit against Wal-Mart when an employee complained that a supervisor taunted him because of his age. The company subsequently fired him. EEOC also charged that the employer did not make reasonable accommodations for his disability. Wal-Mart agreed to pay monetary damages. Furthermore, EEOC told Wal-Mart to retrain employees in the area of age discrimination, harassment and the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
- In Sacramento, California, Trinity Protection Services, violated federal law. They favored younger females and dismissed older males for armed security guard positions. This firm dismissed four men, ages 66 – 73 and three women ages 28, 29 and 50. They said it was because of their scores on an arms requalitification test. They told the males to wait six months before retaking the test. However, they asked the females to return earlier. Trinity stated that it brought back the younger women because of a shortage of employees.
But an investigation by EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) found that this was indeed discrimination.
What You Can Do About Age Discrimination
Laurie McCann, senior attorney for AARP says that often people who are victims of age discrimination don’t pursue it. They decide they will spend their financial and emotional resources looking for a new job instead of getting their old one back. However, with a group layoff, there is strength in numbers. People can pool their money and work together.
If you are included in a group layoff or series of layoffs, you may be able to find statistical evidence to support your claim. The Older Worker Benefit Protection Act, requires employers to give employees who are being laid off information that will determine if the layoffs are being targeted to older people.
Furthermore, compiling anecdotal evidence can be helpful.
Lori B. Rassas, the author of Employment Law: A Guide to Hiring, Managing and Firing for Employers and Employees, recommends that you keep a journal as soon as you get any hint that a layoff may be coming. Furthermore she says, “When you’re fired, it’s too late.”
It is hard to win a discrimination case after you have lost your job. However, it is even more difficult to prove you weren’t hired for a job because of your age.
With either of these discrimination claims it is hard for you to prove discrimination. This is because the proof means showing what’s in the mind of the person who fired you or failed to hire you.
Is Age discrimination real? As you can see, it is. And, while it is difficult to prove, there are steps you can take.
By the way, here is a business opportunity you can pursue. And, you won’t find a hint of age discrimination. Click here.
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