What is Age Discrimination or Ageism?
Ageism occurs when a person is harassed or treated unfairly because of their age. Whether age-based discrimination occurs during the application process, onboarding, promotions, or firing process, it is illegal and a violation of the victim’s rights. Other employees (including managers, supervisors, and others) are also prohibited from engaging in age-based discrimination and harassment.
Because of The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), people over the age of 40 are protected from age discrimination in employment. Employers with at least twenty employees must adhere to this act that protects employees’ rights.
The Illinois Human Rights Act also provides protection to workers between the age of 18 and 40 when it comes to discrimination related to exclusion from training and apprenticeship opportunities. Under this act, employers with at least 15 employees must adhere to the rules and regulations outlined.
What Are Some Examples of Ageism?
Age discrimination in the workplace can occur in a variety of ways. A common type of age-based discrimination that older or younger employees may experience is harassment.
Harassment can take on many forms whether it’s verbal or physical. Acts of harassment can include making offensive or derogatory remarks about your age, physically assaulting or antagonizing you because of your age, or doing any activity that makes the workplace unsafe or hostile for you. It is important to note that while jokes or remarks about your age made by a coworker or manager occasionally may not be considered harassment.
Other examples of age discrimination older employees may suffer can include:
- Being treated differently. Another form of ageism could be that coworkers or managers only allow younger workers to have access to training, resources, advanced projects, or promotions.
- Insults. Other people may create a hostile work environment for older employees if they constantly insult or demean them concerning their age. Employers or others may also make comments about younger employees having more “energy,” “fresh ideas,” or “new blood,” which implies they have a bias or discriminatory mindset against older workers.
- Assumptions or stereotypes. Other employees or managers may make snide remarks about an older employee’s inability to handle a project or work because they assume the older employee does not understand modern technology or social media.
- Being unjustly laid off or fired. After an older employee is laid off or fired, a younger employee may be given the same job with a different title. This act can be seen as forcing an older employee out or as forced retirement, which is a discriminatory act.
- Pretexts. Older employees may be unfairly penalized during their performance reviews or when it is time for bonuses, promotions, etc. because of their age.
- Age-based segregation. Employers or managers may discriminate against older employees by not inviting them to social gatherings or by only spending social or mentoring time with younger employees.
Ageism can also affect young workers. Youth may also suffer from the same types of discrimination that older workers do. Specifically, they may be:
- Treated differently than older employees
- Referred to using inappropriate language or words
- Paid below the minimum wage (because of their age)
- Told certain job responsibilities are too easy or hard because of their age
- Terminated because of their age
- Belittled or demeaned because of their age
Unfortunately, age discrimination is not as uncommon as it should be. Here are some real-life examples of ageism in the workplace.
- IBM faced a lawsuit for age discrimination after a widow of a fired employee (who was 57) killed himself after being let go. IBM executives reportedly conspired to oust older employees and referred to them as “dinobabies” who should be “extinct.”
- Texas Roadhouse paid $12 million to settle an ageism lawsuit after many older employees (those over 40 years old) were not allowed to have front-of-house or public-facing roles (i.e. bartender, waiter/waitress, hosts, etc.) at the restaurant chain.
- Recently, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that they will be suing Novo Nordisk Inc., an insulin and diabetes care product manufacturer and distributor, for age discrimination. Allegedly, a current Novo Nordisk employee was passed over for a role that they applied and interviewed for; the role was offered to a supposedly underqualified 33-year-old person rather than the 62-year-old internal applicant.
- In May 2022, the EEOC filed a lawsuit iTutorGroup, an online English language tutoring service for Chinese tutors, for ageism. The tutoring company has allegedly rejected over 200 qualified U.S. applicants because of their age; according to the lawsuit, the application software was trained to automatically reject female applicants over the age of 55 and male applicants over the age of 60.
What Is the Best Way to Deal with Ageism in the Workplace?
If you or a coworker are suffering from age-based discrimination in the workplace, you can take the following steps to address and fight against ageism in the workplace.
- Create a written record. If you witness or suffer from age-based discrimination, you should take notes that outline what the discriminatory action was, who the actors were, the names of any witnesses, and any other important circumstances.
- Review employer’s policies. Your employer should have clearly outlined policies concerning how you can file a grievance and report the discrimination to a manager or HR.
- Report it. Following your company’s guidelines, file a report to call out the guilty party’s actions.
- Encourage management to implement more policies and protection. If you notice discrimination of any kind and feel like there are not enough policies, you can ask management to encourage or require training concerning discrimination and have more protections for older and younger employees.
- File a lawsuit if action is not taken. If action is not taken, you can file a lawsuit and pursue compensation.
- Consult with an attorney. Before filing a lawsuit, you should consult with an experienced civil rights attorney who can advise you on the laws governing your case, help you prove the discrimination occurred, and offer your high-quality legal counsel and support throughout the entire process.
Contact Our Civil Rights Attorney
At the Law Office of Steven Fine, our attorney has over 20 years of legal experience. If you are unfairly treated at work because of your age, we are here to help you protect your constitutional rights and take legal action if needed.
To learn more about how our firm can help, call (312) 436-0638 or reach out online and request a case consultation.