Nine Signs of Age Discrimination

Age Discrimination In my experience as an employment lawyer representing employees, I've found that the recession was particularly hard on older employees. They seem to have been disproportionately targeted in layoffs, and they have a much harder time finding new jobs.

Employers might assume you're close to retirement and don't need a job, but that's far from true for most Americans. They might also assume that older employees will miss more work or have more medical issues. Yet statistics show that older employees tend to be the most reliable. It's not only foolish to discriminate based on age -- it's also illegal for most companies to do so.

Who's Protected From Age Discrimination?

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act says that it's illegal for an employer to discriminate against you because of your age, but that only applies if you're age 40 or older, and only if the employer has at least 20 employees (or is a government of any size). Some states, counties and cities have laws that protect employees of smaller organizations. Some states also have laws that further limit age-based discrimination. Always check with an employment lawyer in your state when in doubt.

But How Do I Prove Age Discrimination?

Here are the top signs that you might be a victim of age discrimination:

1. Biased comments

These are the most obvious signs, and thus the rarest. If your boss calls you "grandma" or "old man," asks you about your retirement plans, says that they want a younger image, or says that your best days are behind you -- document it. This could be considered direct evidence of discrimination. If there are any witnesses, write down their names. Note dates, times and places.

2. Comparisons

Look around you. Pay attention to how younger employees are treated. If they are treated differently than you under the same circumstances, that could be evidence of age discrimination. Who was laid off and who wasn't? If older people were the primary targets, start writing down their names, along with the names of younger, less-qualified employees who were kept on.

3. Disparate discipline

If you're disciplined for something that younger employees do without consequences, write it down. They might be building a case against you due to your age.

4. Promotions

If you're more qualified than a younger employee, but you're not chosen for a promotion that you applied for, it may well be due to your age.

5. Favoritism

If younger employees are given the best leads, assignments and equipment, this could be a sign of age discrimination. Additionally, if older employees are excluded from key meetings, or if the boss only socializes with younger employees, then these too may be signs of age-based discrimination.

6. Hiring younger employees

If you see a pattern of your company hiring only younger employees, or if you are turned down for a position that you apply for and see it given to a less-qualified younger employee, it may be a sign that the company is discriminating due to age.

7. Suddenly stupid

Does the attitude at work change after you hit an age milestone? Or does a new boss only like younger employees? If you turn, say, 50 or 60 and suddenly get negative performance reviews and write-ups, you might have an age-discrimination claim.

8. Harassment

If it doesn't affect you in the wallet, it's considered harassment. If you think your boss is trying to make you miserable due to your age to try to get you to quit, or if you're being called names and made fun of due to your age, start writing it down.

9. But the boss is older

Even if the boss is your age or older, if they prefer younger employees over older ones, it still might be age discrimination.

What to Do If You're Being Subjected to Age Discrimination

If the company hands you a severance agreement and you think you've been targeted for layoff due to your age, contact an employment lawyer. They might be able to negotiate a better severance package for you. Plus you might be giving up rights that you don't need to sign away. Always read and understand before you sign.

If you're being harassed (something that doesn't affect you in the wallet) because of your age, then the Supreme Court says that you have to report it, if the company has a harassment policy, and give them a chance to fix the situation. Only if they don't remedy it, or if the harassment continues, can you file a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or your state agency. If you just up and quit, or if you skip this step, you may lose your right to sue for discrimination.

If it's an adverse employment action, like denial of a promotion, a demotion, suspension without pay, or termination/layoff, you need to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC (they're at or your state/county/city agency before you can sue.

You will have either 180 days or 300 days from the date of discrimination, depending on your state, to file with the EEOC.

Your state/county/city might have different deadlines. Don't miss your deadline! This is a requirement before you're allowed to sue.

Federal employees have a completely different set of rules for filing a discrimination claim. They have 45 days to see their designated EEOC counselor, with an entire investigative process that circumvents the EEOC. There's a morass of tangled hoops to jump through, so if you work for the federal government be particularly careful not to miss any deadlines.

Most importantly, if you think you're the victim of age discrimination, gather your notes and evidence and go see an employment lawyer in your state, so that you can find out whether you have a potential claim and what you need to do under your state's laws.

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The EEOC will do very little to help you if you are an older white male. I filed an age discrimination case in their Dallas office and they were dismissive from the beginning and didn't even follow their own notification timelines. I felt like I was being discriminated against all over again.

January 18 2016 at 9:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Glenn Johnson

Gm, I have totally enjoyed reading the comments and my heart goes out to everyone that has been discriminated against them. I feel a certain way with my job of 5 plus years. I have applied for promotion several times. I have been told I don't interview well, but I am doing the job already. I have been the last person that knows, he didn't get the job. Boss called me on my vacation to tell me, only because the new hired manager's family member came into facility tell people. he even admitted to me that I was a check. second opportunity, he took three weeks to tell me we didn't pick your( sacristy). I have applied for 4 positions in 5 years and never promoted. all hired teammember are younger than me, less education and experience. I feel bad, because im tired of giving and not getting anything...great evaulations but no increases...

December 18 2015 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Aulbert Ben West Jr

Although I definitely want to get work, I don't mind losing a job if they at least let me make an effort. I had one interview where the interview itself was doing certain things, if you could do them, you got the job. The "interviewer" showed me what to do, I was able to do 3 of them [at least 2, he said 1, but it was 3], he didn't want me to keep trying because he didn't want me to "get hurt" [it was an age thing], but when I mentioned that, he did let me continue to try and wasn't able to do the other two "tricks", so I do appreciate him letting me make an effort.

July 22 2015 at 1:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Aulbert Ben West Jr

I have no doubt that when I was sent by Pacesetter Personell to Journeyman Construction [based in Austin] at an apartment complex in Buda that I was called "old man" and "pops" inspite of being the same age as the manager and that I was prohibited from doing something [moving some scaffolding a few feet] that I had already done earlier that day. I didn't get paid for the 2 days I did work, either.

July 22 2015 at 1:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yes it does happen. i worked at a company for seven years. The manager announced to the department one day that the company was no longer employing people over the age of 40. Two of my co-workers had just both been let go and both were over 50. Since I was the last one in the department over 50 the manager spent a lot of time harassing me until I left. She would tell me on almost a daily bases I had been with the company too long. I had positive reviews but my age seems to all of sudden become an issue.

October 14 2014 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thank you for this information!!!! I was not sure if I qualified for age discrimination. Until reading the nine signs did I realize i had a definate case. Of the nine 5 of the signs are very evident in my situation.

June 22 2014 at 10:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have been seeking employment for over 2 years. The county I live in offers Employment First and I was told not to put the date I graduated from High School because it is a screening tool to rule you out. I have a Masters Degree and a tremendous amount of experience and interview well. I will get an interview and not get called back, if I do, I am told that they are looking for someone with MORE EXPERIENCE! In most cases, I find out that the person hired has little experience, however, is much younger. I inquired about the application process which asks for High School graduation date. It was suggested that I put in 00/00/0000, however, there are now drop down menus in which you have to choose a date. When I inquired about this, it was suggested to put the present date. I am not the only one facing this problem, I have talked with several people my age and they are saying the same thing. I am not old enough to retire. I face this frustration constantly!!!

June 06 2014 at 3:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have been with this company over 10 1/2 years with no problems always great yearly reviews now all of a sudden i have written up for things I have been doing wrong and these are the same things other coworkers also have done but not written up…i am 59 years old and I feel like they are trying to get rid of me, I am the oldest in my dept the rest are in 30's to 40's and never do wrong. almost two weeks ago my daughter who worked for them as long as I have was layed off for no reason. I want to keep my job but I do feel it is due to my age

March 18 2014 at 10:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

maybe someone can help me out im 40 years old i have had severe seizures for 20 years so i am disabled mentally but i have a job i love and i think i do good at it and work hard well 7 months ago a new store manger came in and doesnt like me he has cut my hours i'v been begging for 7 months for hours 3 weeks i get a little more has told me that these are my regual days . well im 40 years old missing a front tooth but im great at what i di and my hour get cut again and was given to a 16 year old cheerleader with a full set of teeth who has never done this kind of work doesnt do the side workor anything and the bad thing about it is she is a minor and cant close so he has her working 3 hours and then grabs someone from the back to clean up her mess..and when i asked him why he told me that he doent know how im gonna work he sad you have good days and bad day.. well i understand that but i am disabled how was that no an insult plz help me i love my job and dont want to lose it

June 08 2013 at 6:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Age discrimination hit me twice in one day. At one place, I asked if they were hiring. I was told no. Then I mentioned that I wanted to get an application for my son. All of sudden there was an opening for a cashier. Later that day, I was told at another place that the job may not be suitable for a person of my age. I have been unemployed for two years and until recently, I thought it as for other reasons. Now I see, it is just plain age discrimination. I wish it was racial discrimination, then I would be able to fight back.

March 02 2013 at 4:59 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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