Written by John Winer
May 03, 2021
While ageism is nothing new, the widening wealth gap and current economic frustrations have put a spotlight on age discrimination in the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of workers aged 65 or older has grown by 117% in a span of 20 years, while employment of individuals 75 years or older has also increased by the same percentage. With the increase of older employees in the workforce, age discrimination in the workplace will become a greater issue, and strategic planning will be necessary in order to avoid age-related issues. Last month, a bipartisan group of senators reintroduced a measure aimed at making it easier for older Americans to bring work-related age discrimination cases against their employers.
The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, sponsored by a group of senators, would amend the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to restore plaintiffs’ burden of proof to where it had been before a 2009 Supreme Court case ruling in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, which weakened the ADEA by imposing a significantly higher burden of proof on workers alleging age discrimination than is required of workers alleging other forms of workplace discrimination. As a result, workers that allege age discrimination must meet an undue legal burden not faced by workers alleging discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), one of the act’s sponsors claimed, “As more Americans are remaining in the workforce longer, we must recognize and address the challenges that aging workers face. We must make it clear to employers that age discrimination is unacceptable, and we must strengthen anti-discrimination protections that are being eroded.”
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act offers protection for certain employees and applicants aged over 40 from all forms of discrimination in the hiring, promotion, discharge, and workers’ compensation. The act also prohibits the use of age preference in the hiring process. It prohibits denying benefits to older employees. According to the act, it’s illegal for an employer to decide to hire or fire an employee based on age. They also can’t base pay on their age and have a policy that negatively affects employees because of their age.
Employees in all industries can experience age discrimination, however, AARP has highlighted the ones where it is the most rampant:
● Business and finance
● Marketing and advertising
Some steps the AARP recommends taking to fight age discrimination in the workplace include:
● Talk with a supervisor: sometimes the issues can be addressed in an informal conversation.
● Keep a log: document comments and actions that you believe were driven by discrimination and keep any records, such as emails.
● Lodge a complaint with the company: if conversations with managers don’t achieve anything, go through the organization’s formal complaint process. Make sure to write down your concerns and observations.
● Submit an inquiry to the EEOC: formal complaints are investigated either by the EEOC or by state and local fair employment practice agencies. States that have their own investigators and work-sharing agreements will share the information with the EEOC.
● Contact an attorney: if you believe you are a victim of any form of age discrimination, contacting an experienced employment law attorney is important to help protect your employee rights.
All workers of employers who employ five or more people are entitled to protection under California employment discrimination law. Because age discrimination cases are tough cases, having the right legal counsel and representation of an experienced employment discrimination lawyer is key to pursuing justice. Since the onset of the Great Recession, age discrimination cases filed at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have held steady at a level that is 50% higher than historic levels.
Employers take significant legal precautions to avoid potential discrimination claims during promotion considerations, annual reviews, layoff periods, and firings to ensure that age is not the obvious motivating factor in the case. That is why we represent clients in any industry in the state, and we work tirelessly to develop a case capable of victory. We also represent contractors, union members, and employees of nonprofit organizations under any circumstances. Our attorneys will be prepared to help you recover damages and guide you in the repair of your career.