6 Ways To Prove You're A Victim Of Age Discrimination

Practical ways to prove your suspicions.

Middle aged man sitting and looking into the distance
This was an email I got from a reader:

Last year they hired a younger employee and I have been working at this job for over 30 years and have always been in charge of the bookkeeping department. The new girl is head now. I am 53 years old and I feel I have been discriminated against. I got a huge raise because they were paying the new girl a ton more than what I was making. I need help in deciding whether I could win a discrimination suit.


Age discrimination is rampant in this economy. It's not unusual for older employees to be the first selected in layoffs and demotions. If you actually lose your job, getting work when you're over 50 is tough.

If a younger employee is promoted over you, that could be age discrimination. But the question is, how do you prove it? Here are six practical ways you can prove that you've been demoted, fired, passed over or penalized at work because of age discrimination.
  1. Direct evidence: If your boss or HR are dumb enough to make comments about your age, then that's direct evidence of age discrimination. Juries and judges love this kind of evidence. Calling you "the old fart," asking when you plan to retire, saying you should make room for younger employees or saying you grew up when dinosaurs roamed could all be evidence of age discrimination. If these comments are made, write them down, noting date, time and any witnesses. If the person making that comments participates in the decision to demote or fire you, then you can use this evidence.
  2. Harassment: Those age-related comments could also be age-based harassment. So could other treatment you're getting that is less favorable than your younger colleagues.
  3. Discipline: If you had a pristine employment record before you turned, say, 50 and now you've started getting written up, that could be an indication of age discrimination. If you're being written up for things that younger employees also do without being disciplined, that could help your age discrimination claim. It could also be part of an age-based harassment claim.
  4. Exclusion: If your younger colleagues are included in lunches, events, or training and you're left behind, that could also be evidence of age discrimination or age-based harassment.
  5. Favoritism: When younger employees are given the best leads, assignments or office space, it's a pretty good sign that you're being pushed out due to your age.
  6. Promotions and hiring: If you look around at the new hires and the folks who are getting promoted, and they all look like they just graduated from high school, your employer may be discriminating based on age. Even if you didn't apply for a promotion or position, if you notice that only younger people are getting new jobs and promotions over better-qualified older employees, your employer might be trying to project a younger image.
Now that you know how to prove age discrimination, what do you do? My next article will be about what you need to do if you think you're being targeted for age discrimination.

If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs. While I can't answer every question here, your question might be featured in one of my columns, or in our upcoming live video chat.

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24 Comments

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bethp586

I am 49 years old, and on this current, very physically demanding job, I have gotten more write-ups, reprimands, etc, than I have ever gotten in my whole life of working. Today, I was called into the office, reprimanded and written up again, told that I had three months to "straighten up", or I would be gone. I see kids out of high school coming in there to work, and within even less than a month, they are doing high end, easier work than I have ever done in my whole life. I know within my heart and mind that this is age discrimination, but knowing it and proving it are two different things. Employers are not going to cite age as a reason to get rid of someone who is an older, seasoned worker....they will cite poor job performance, instead, to avoid an age discrimination lawsuit and avoid having to pay unemployment compensation. They also will refuse to look within the organization for something easier for the older person to do. Youth and beauty are in, people. Gray hair and wisdom are out!

July 09 2014 at 12:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cgbarn

I feel that both myself and my husband were discriminated against due to age. I was working at a medical device company doing fine with good reviews. A new manager came in and did not like me. It took her little time to write my up for forgetting to order 2 sets white board markers instead of one. She also belittled me, telling me I was thought of as ditzy, etc. She said that it would take quite a while to get my skill set up to her standards, even though I had worked at the position for 51/2 years and she had been there 2 months. I had developed osteo-arthritis in my knees with a noticeable limp and much pain, but I still did my job without complaint. I was so nervous about making a mistake around her that I could no longer funtion. I knew that she wanted me out and I was ready to go. After several trips to HR, I resigned my position. It was clear that what she said to me did not matter to the company. I was a few weeks away from 57th birthday, Dec. 2012, and I have not had a steady job since. Regarding my husband, he has been working for a well known aerospace company for 15 years. They have always had periodic layoffs, but my husband had managed to make the cut each time. This year at the age of 62, he was laid off. His attendance and performance were both very good. It seems that this year, they went not by poor performance, but by average performance. In other words, they cut the ones that met expectations. We were totally in shock. We had expected him to stay until full retirement at age 67. Can either of us prove that we were discriminated against? I doubt it. The burden of proof is on us, not the employer.

January 26 2014 at 12:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Cgbarn's comment
Cgbarn

I should add that prior to the new manager, my review had been exceeds expectation.

January 26 2014 at 12:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jess

To all the younger people thinking this is a joke......remember, you're raising the next generation by example. When it happens to you, YOU will need to learn to "suck it up" and take it. We'll be laughing from our rocking chairs and walkers.

September 11 2013 at 8:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
charlie

well i may be too old to cut the mustard but i still love licking the jar. "sex descrimination". lol

September 11 2013 at 6:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mikelookup

I am 66 years old. Have cataracts in both eyes. Need a walker. Drink too much and don't like anyone. Should I be age discriminated against just because I am old?

September 11 2013 at 4:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mikelookup's comment
charlie

no mike. according to the Republican Party you should be shot and taken out of the equation period.

September 11 2013 at 6:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to charlie's comment
Jess

The Republican Party? No, no, Charlie....you mean the pro-Obamacare crowd. Or perhaps you didn't read that far into the plan.

September 11 2013 at 8:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
gmgpjandon

How about the government? I'm eighty and would like to enlist in the
air Force to complete complete five more years to retirement. Doesn't take a jock to be useful. lol

September 11 2013 at 2:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gmgpjandon's comment
charlie

no but the Republican Party would let you join before they would send one of their own family to war.

September 11 2013 at 6:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
brachm5

Suck it up, that's life.

September 11 2013 at 1:31 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
benaroundsum

Don't hold your breath. While the law may be on your side good luck in proving it. Employers know all the tricks and they usually have the resources that you don't. And they KNOW you know that. They hope you'll just go away.

September 11 2013 at 12:54 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
uncommonsensesc

Yeah, right! Trying to prove age discrimination is almost impossible so that's why not many people even try! I'd like to hear from one person that was able to prove it and got either a settlement or their job back! I was laid off 2 1/2 years ago at 51. I've been working since I was 17 and graduated high school. I have experience in several different industries (lived in 5 states) and fields yet nothing permanent has come up! I honestly think I've been a victim of gender discrimination - when I worked at my last job, I took a "lateral" move into a department I really didn't want because they wouldn't get me an assistant or get rid of some of my duties (I was production control manager, order entry manager, IT for phones and computers, back-up for payroll, back-up for daily deposits, back-up for the plant supervisor and they'd only let me use 1 order entry lady for 3 hours a day!). When I moved, they hired a man, then they hired him an assistant, then they found him an office!! He didn't have a clue so they did let him go after 3 months, promoted someone else who didn't know what they were doing and demoted her. Now, there's 3 people in production control (the manager is a man who is very well qualified and extremely good), 1 person doing IT full time, another person doing back-up for payroll and deposits and another person being back-up for the plant supervisor! Me or 6 people! I think it was because the CEO got along better with men than women! That sounds like gender discrimation doesn't it?

September 11 2013 at 12:41 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Big K

The EEOC is a joke. I sincerely believe that many of its agents receive \"under the table\" money to squash or not pursue discrimination lawsuits. I was a new vehicle sales manager at a Ford dealership. I was waiting outside the general sales managers office to speak with him. He was finishing a phone call. His exact words were, \"This dealership has been run by niggers for niggers for too long, and I\'m about to put a stop to it.\" I went to the EEOC and filed a complaint. That general manager went all over the dealership, attempting to get someone to lie on his behalf. No one bit. There was a detail guy who heard the comment as well. He said he would go to court when it was time. When it was time for court, I called him. His mother told me that he wasn\'t home. I heard the comment, but the EEOC agent said because my so-called witness was not available he was dropping the case. By the way, the detail guy never showed up at the dealership after that, and I was \"let go\" as soon as the EEOC sent the dealership a letter indicating it was dropping and no longer pursuing the case. How\'s that for a WORTHLESS agency?

September 11 2013 at 12:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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