Age discrimination is a problem in some workplaces in America. It happens when someone who is over the age of 40 is discriminated against because of their age alone. They may be treated less favorably because of their age, which is unfair to them and a sign of a hostile workplace.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, age discrimination is prohibited under most circumstances, but there are exceptions. For example, it may not be discriminatory to hire a younger person to play a younger role in a movie, because age is imperative to the role.
Who can commit age discrimination?
While most people think age discrimination is caused by younger people who discriminate against older workers, the reality is that age discrimination can take place between people of the same ages or those who are older than the worker being discriminated against. Legally, it is forbidden to discriminate against a person 40 or older during any aspect of employment.
A harasser can be anyone at work. It can be your supervisor, a supervisor over a different department, a client, a customer, a coworker or someone else.
What does age discrimination look like?
Age discrimination can be frequent, severe, passive or a one-off event. While the law doesn’t directly prohibit teasing or offhanded commentary about your age, it does stop people from harassing you or negatively impacting your work environment or role as a result of that discrimination.
For example, it may not be considered discrimination if a coworker calls you “pops” during a meeting. However, if they continue to call you names referring to your age, belittle you and eventually make the workplace so hostile that it’s difficult to work there, then you may have a claim.
What should you do if you’re harassed about your age at work?
Except for in rare circumstances, age should play no role in how you’re treated or the jobs you can perform. If you believe that you’re facing age discrimination, it is your right to look into your legal options and to take action to hold your employer accountable for failing to stop this behavior.