What is age discrimination?
Age discrimination happens when an employer refuses to treat a worker or prospective worker fairly due to his or her age. Law protect workers over the age of 40 from age discrimination in the workplace at both the federal level as well as in most states. In particular, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as its partner, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), are the go-to guidelines for companies with over 50 employees.
The ADEA prevents employers from designating age as a job requirement. Advertising positions with age requirements is also prohibited. The law also prohibits setting age limits for training programs and prevents an employer from retaliating against employees who complain about or file formal charges concerning age discrimination.
What is Age Bias?
Age bias occurs when employers use methods and factors other than an employee’s merits and qualifications to make employment decisions. These methods and factors may be based on preconceived notions and unfair assumptions about an older worker’s ability to perform well on a job.
Age bias can form the basis of illegal and unfair acts if not checked. Federal law prohibits employment practices based on this type of bias when it results in age-related discrimination. Yet, age discrimination is prevalent in the workplace. Today, 1 in 5 workers are are over the age of 55 and 64 percent reported experiencing age discrimination in 2014, according to the AARP report, “Staying Ahead of the Curve.”
Generally speaking, workers over the age of 40 are just as capable of performing jobs as younger workers. This is the basis of age discrimination law. An employer who uses age biases rather than fair employment practices to make decisions on any aspect of employment could be in violation of the law.
Addressing Age Bias in the Workplace
When encountering age bias, many employees become frustrated and do not know the best way to handle the situation. In addition, the threat of retaliation from an employer who may fire or demote an employee who complains often keeps those who experience very real instances of age bias and discrimination silent.
However, employees need not tolerate employers who treat them unfairly because of their age. Rather, older workers should be prepared to address the issue and hold their employers accountable for their actions.
Consider the following strategies for overcoming age bias in the workplace:
- Know your rights.
Both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the ADEA require employers to follow specific rules for fairness in the workplace. Employers must be prepared to adhere to these federal laws regarding age discrimination as well as similar state laws.
Not doing so could lead to costly litigation. In fact, the EEOC has addressed the presence of age bias in the workplace by releasing guidelines and regulations to the public that outline the best practices necessary to meet legal requirements concerning age discrimination.
- Do your homework.
A number of reliable resources for overcoming age bias in the workplace exist online. The AARP has an excellent fact sheet on the topic as well as a plethora of articles, research and graphics. The EEOC is also a reliable resource for up-to-date information, statistics and age discrimination cases.
- Consult your EEO counselor.
Throughout the process of facing and overcoming age bias in the workplace, it’s important to stay abreast of the procedures and processes for filing a complaint for resolution within your company. This may involve contacting your company’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor or other HR representatives who can assist with addressing your questions and concerns.
- Contact the EEOC.
The EEOC is a federal agency with the authority to represent employees in age discrimination cases. The EEOC is responsible for making sure employment discrimination laws are fully enforced. When a violation of age discrimination law occurs, employees must file a charge with the EEOC prior to filing a lawsuit in court.
- File a Charge with the EEOC.
When you are thinking of filing a legal claim of age discrimination against your employer, the first step is always to file a charge with the EEOC with the help of a qualified employment discrimination attorney. Once the charge is filed, the EEOC may choose to represent you in a lawsuit to hold your employer accountable for age bias. If the EEOC decides not to represent you, it will give you permission to file suit with the help of your attorney.
- Appeal to an ethics committee or propose a new program.
Another useful strategy in combating age bias is to appeal to an industry ethics committee, or if your company does not already have one in place, to propose a new ethics program. Studies have shown that companies with effective ethics programs in place are less likely to experience widespread misconduct, including biases that lead to discrimination.
- Contact your attorney.
Perhaps the best way to address age bias in the workplace is to contact your attorney to find out the wisest course of action to take based on the legal option available. You’ll need an attorney that is skilled in employment discrimination law with a considerable amount of experience in handling cases where age discrimination may not be overt, but is still present in the form of age bias.
Strategies for Overcoming Age Bias
Overcoming age bias may not be easy, but workers all across the country are finding ways to handle it without sacrificing their careers. The laws protecting employees from the effects of unfair bias in the workplace are designed to give all workers fair access to equal employment. Contact your attorney today for more information.