Age discrimination, unfortunately, does occur in the workplace. People over 50 who have been fired often find themselves questioning if they were let go for valid reasons or if age factored into the decision. Learn the facts about age discrimination to determine if you have fired someone or have been fired for unjust reasons.
How Is an Employee Protected?
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects job applicants and employees age 40 and above from discrimination based on age. As an employer, you cannot factor age into the hiring decision or the reason to let an employee go. The law applies to all employment agencies, the federal government, employers with at least 20 employees, labor organizations with at least 25 members, and state and local government offices.
State laws, although they vary, also protect workers from age discrimination. These specific laws are intended to enhance protection for people 40 or older, and typically apply to companies with less than 20 employees.
Employees facing a termination have more protection against age discrimination than people who are seeking positions later in life. When an employee is fired, he can request a specific reason for the termination and challenge reasons that are proven to be false or indicate age discrimination. For a job seeker, however, employers may not disclose reasons for not hiring him, even if he suspect that age was a factor in the decision.
What Constitutes Age Discrimination?
Employers cannot reference age as a reason to fire an employee. Federal law also prevents employers from discriminating based on age when determining job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, pay or fringe benefits. A person's age does not warrant any type of harassment from co-workers, supervisors or customers. Harassment and discrimination include offensive remarks about the person's age. Although teasing, isolated incidents or offhand comments are not always punishable by law, when harassment creates an offensive work environment that is hostile and leads to termination of the victim, these actions are deemed illegal.
What Is Wrongful Termination Due to Age?
An employee who is fired because the employer believes the person to be too "old" for the job has grounds for an age discrimination suit for a wrongful firing. People who are 50 or older should not be reprimanded or fired for any reason related to their age. For example, if they do not care for the same clothing trends or music as younger employees, it doesn't mean they cannot complete the requirements of the position.
People 50 and older often possess the knowledge and skills needed to be productive on the job, and just because an employer views the person as outdated or unwilling to conform to the likes and dislikes of younger employees, firing is not warranted based on age alone. The law strictly stipulates that practices and procedures of each business should not have a "disparate impact" on older workers. Older professionals should not be passed over for promotions because the company anticipates they will retire soon or have become stale members of the workforce.
How Are Employees Discriminated Against Based on Age?
Employers are also prohibited from creating policies or procedures that discriminate against age, such as reserving certain clients for younger executives or employees because it is perceived that the younger employee is more in tune with what the customer wants or needs. Older employees should also have the right to participate in training, professional development and promotion opportunities. Just because a person is 50 or older does not mean he should be deprived of the same opportunities as a younger person to enhance his skills and be promoted within the company.
Employers must hire from a diverse workforce to enhance productivity and profitability. Forcing an older employee to retire, or firing individuals because they seem to be too "old" to represent the company's fresh new image, is illegal. All workers should be given the opportunity to utilize their skills, engage with clients and customers, and participate in workplace training. Work environments and supervisors who focus on age when re-inventing the company's image may not only be engaging in illegal practices and age discrimination, they could also be limiting crucial talent from enhancing their success.
Photo Courtesy of Imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net