California workers are becoming increasingly willing to complain about workplace mistreatment and illegal behaviors. That is often connected to sexual harassment and various forms of discrimination.
Sexual harassment has come to the forefront as part of the “me too” movement complete with the social media hashtag (#MeToo) where people in the entertainment industry discussed how they were confronted by workplace wrongdoing. It expanded to other industries to stoke fundamental change. Discrimination has centered on gender, sexual orientation and race.
Still, there are other ways in which workers and prospective employees can be discriminated against. One that is gaining increased notoriety is age discrimination. Just like sexual harassment victims and people who experienced the above-listed forms of workplace discrimination have the right to speak out and seek justice, so too do those who were discriminated against because of their age.
What should I know about age discrimination?
Just like other forms of discrimination, age discrimination involves treating a person differently that they would otherwise be treated solely because of their age. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission uses the Age Discrimination in Employment Act – ADEA – to protect older workers.
This is for people 40 and older. If, for example, a person reaches a specific age, it cannot be the sole reason for terminating them. This covers when a person is hired, fired, paid, given assignments, promoted, laid off, given training, gets benefits and any other part of employment.
Age discrimination is not limited to the above factors. People cannot be harassed because of their age. This is comparable to people not being sexually harassed, harassed over a disability or for any other reason. Still, the behavior must go beyond lighthearted teasing that does not do any harm to be worthy of a legal claim. A simple comment that has no impact on the person’s work status will generally not meet the threshold to be considered age discrimination.
Many might be under the impression that only supervisors or owners can commit age discrimination, but it can be anyone in the workplace from colleagues to people in other departments and even customers.
To address this problem, U.S. lawmakers are considering various options including the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act. Known as POWDA, it is a bipartisan law that would ease the process for employees to accrue proof that they were discriminated against because of their age. The current burden is relatively high when compared to other forms of discrimination.
Age discrimination should not be tolerated
Simply reading a newspaper, checking the web or turning on the television can show discussions about how people might be considered too old to do certain jobs. It is reaching the highest levels. There are often misplaced beliefs that people cannot continue to work beyond a certain age or they are incapable of handling their jobs due to mental, physical and educational limitations based on age.
People are living longer and the confines of age should not define them and what they are able to accomplish. Unfortunately, some employers feel as if they are free to discriminate because of age. They are not. For people who believe they have been victimized by age discrimination, it is important to know the facts and have help with determining what alternatives are available to hold employers accountable.