During these tough economic times, many of the people concerned with either landing a new job or trying to hang onto their current position are individuals age 40 or over. Unfortunately, all ages in this recession have been affected; however, many workers aged 40 and older seem to have been hit especially hard. Federal law is supposed to protect workers 40 and older, but proving you’ve been denied a job or laid off to make way for younger and cheaper workers isn’t easy. Here is what the law states about age discrimination.
First, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The ADEA’s protections apply to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training. The ADEA permits employers to favor older workers based on age even when doing so adversely affects a younger worker who is 40 or older. A job notice or advertisement may specify an age limit only in the rare circumstances where age is shown to be a “bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOQ) reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business
It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on age or for filing an age discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADEA.
The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.
So now you may be thinking, “What are some of the things that I can do to protect myself?” Listed below are some pointers for the job applicant:
- When applying for a job, make sure that you are aware of new innovations, technologies, and developments in your field.
- Be adaptable and willing to learn new skills.
- At the interview, dress currently and, if possible, stay fit.
Accentuate your knowledge applicable to your field and demonstrate how you can be of value to this employer.
Current employees should be aware of age related issues as well:
- Most complaints originate primarily from a termination, which is usually the easiest type of case to prove. When you’ve been terminated, you’re either replaced before you leave or you have a co-worker who still works there. You can see if the person who replaced you is younger and you can then gather the appropriate information necessary, if applicable.
However, some cases are more difficult, as sometimes it’s not enough for an age discrimination suit to show that age was one of the determining factors. The Supreme Court has interpreted the law now that age has to be the sole cause. That makes a suit much more difficult to prove, because a lot of things can drive an employer’s decision making process.
Young or old, it always pays to know your rights, both as a job applicant and as a current employee. If you do become a victim of age discrimination or harassment, notify your supervisor, or if your supervisor in the offending party, the next supervisor in the chain of command above your supervisor, or someone in Human Resources. As an employee, or potential employee, set a good example, and make it clear to everyone that discrimination of any kind is not tolerated by you or your company.