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Report: Older Workers Say Age Discrimination is Rampant

A gavel and a book page that reads “AGE DISCRIMINATION”

The American workforce is getting older, and unfortunately, that hasn’t brought about the end of age discrimination in employment.

AARP survey reveals an alarming trend

According to a series of surveys conducted by AARP, about two-thirds of adults over 50 believe older workers face discrimination in the workplace. And that belief is well-founded: according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), over one-fourth of workers over age 50 have been the target of age-related remarks at work, and nearly one-fifth of HR professionals have received reports of perceived ageism in the workplace.

“Ageism is really one of the last acceptable ‘isms’ that society tolerates,” said Heather Tinsley-Fix, a senior adviser at AARP, per USA Today. That said, the law does not tolerate age discrimination in the workplace, but the law isn’t self-executing; employees need to know their rights and take action to protect them.

How age discrimination plays out at work

Most employers don’t explicitly discriminate on the basis of age. Rather, age discrimination is usually subtle. Some examples of potential age discrimination include:

  • Advertising positions using proxies for age, such as “recent graduates preferred” or “digital natives wanted.”
  • Asking age-related questions in job interviews, such as “How long have you been in the workforce?” or “When did you graduate from high school?”
  • Denying training or professional development opportunities to older workers because “they’re close to retirement anyway.”
  • Laying off older employees, often because they are higher earners.
  • Using age as a factor when awarding promotions, raises, and prestigious projects.
  • Making age-related comments and remarks at work.

Regardless of whether there is intent to discriminate against older workers, employers are responsible for ensuring their work environment is free of unlawful discrimination. That means actively reviewing policies and examining the effects of management decisions to ensure older workers get equal treatment. It also means promptly shutting down any age-related harassment or other unlawful conduct.

Is age discrimination against the law?

The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which applies to all employers with at least 20 employees, prohibits discrimination in employment against anyone over age 40. Many states, including Ohio, also have laws that contain a similar prohibition on age discrimination.

Age discrimination is taking an adverse employment action, such as firing an employee, passing them over for a promotion, reducing their pay, or reassigning them to a less desirable shift on the basis of age. To prove illegal age discrimination, you must show that:

  • You were over 40 when the alleged discrimination occurred,
  • You met your employer’s legitimate job performance expectations,
  • You suffered an adverse employment action, and
  • You would not have suffered the adverse employment action if you were under 40.

Your employer can make counterarguments, including arguing that they had another valid (non-age-related) reason for the adverse employment action. At that point, your attorney needs to argue that the offered reason was less likely than age discrimination, or simply that it’s untrue.

Talk to an experienced employment law attorney today

Again, age discrimination is against the law in most Ohio workplaces. However, it frequently goes unreported and unaddressed. Coming forward to say you were discriminated against is a big step, but it’s necessary to protect your legal rights. We can help.

If you are over 40 and believe you have been discriminated against or harassed because of your age, we can protect your rights under federal and state law. Give us a call or contact us online for a free case evaluation with Nilges Draher LLC.

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