Recognizing Age Discrimination In The Workplace
When it comes to age discrimination, a lot of people think they will know when it happens to them. The boss will tell you that you’re too old, or that the company needs “new blood,” or that you’re “slowing down.”
But in reality, most age discrimination cases are much harder to recognize. In fact, in many cases people who are terminated, are let go for other reasons that sound legitimate—but which end up being noting, more than age discrimination.
How Common are Age Discrimination Cases?
Age discrimination is common. According to the AARP, between 1997 and 2018 over 400,000 workers filed age discrimination claims. That makes up over 20% of all discrimination claims in the workplace.
Yet, the same study showed that only 3% of older employees made any type of complaint about age discrimination. This means older workers are either not recognizing discrimination, or else, are too frightened to say anything about it.
One common strategy that a company may use to disguise age discrimination, is a restructuring of the company.
Sometimes the restructuring is genuine—the company really wants to restructure, and feels the best way to do it is by replacing older workers with younger ones. Other times, the restructuring is the elimination of those over 40 from their jobs—in other words, there is no real restructuring going on at all.
A company may use buzzwords to hide age discrimination. It may say that it needs people who are “more in touch” with social media, technology, or current events or workers who are more “vibrant,” or other kinds of subtly discriminatory language.
A company certainly can update technology, and require you to use it, no matter what your age. It can legally fire you if you don’t learn to use it.
But a company has to provide you training; updating technology or requiring employees use technology without providing training, and then firing or demoting you when you don’t know how to use that technology, is age discrimination if you are over the age of 40.
Adverse Actions & Signs of Discrimination
Many older people think that just because they get to keep their job there can’t be age discrimination. This isn’t true. Discrimination can happen if younger people get fewer promotions, opportunities, or chances to advance in the company.
Is your company engaging in age discrimination? If you are uncertain, it can help to look for patterns. Are most all workers who are laid off, demoted, or denied training, over the age of 40? Is there a trend of older workers retiring or being forced out, and being replaced with younger faces? Are the younger faces actually less qualified than the older workers they replaced?
Proof of Discrimination
Age discrimination isn’t easy to prove—a workers must show that the employer’s motivation in firing, or taking some other adverse action, was primarily the worker’s age. But it can be proven, and workers and employers should be aware of the law, so that older workers are protected, and companies don’t get themselves into legal problems.
Call the West Palm Beach employment law attorneys at Pike & Lustig to help if you are involved in a discrimination lawsuit.