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What is age discrimination in the workplace?

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act forbids discriminating against a person over 40 based on his or her age in New York and across the country. The act does not prevent the employer from favoring an older employee over a younger one, even if both are over 40, however.

Employers cannot base employments decisions on the person's age. These decisions could include hiring, firing and promotions, and they can even include training and job assignments. Employers also cannot base a person's pay or fringe benefits on age. Even employment policies that apply to everybody can be illegal if they negatively affect employees over 40 and are not based on another reasonable factor.

Another form of age discrimination is harassment. The law does not forbid simple teasing, isolated incidents or offhand comments, but such occurrences cannot be too frequent or severe. If the incidents become severe, they may create a hostile work environment for the employee. Comments from supervisors, co-workers, and clients or customers could create a hostile work environment, which could result in federal penalties against the company.

In any age discrimination case that involves an employment decision, factors other than age may be involved. An attorney may be able to go over all of the factors and determine if it involved discrimination. This information is not a substitute for an attorney's services. Every situation is unique, so the party may wish to consult an attorney before deciding whether to proceed with a discrimination lawsuit.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Age Discrimination", November 29, 2014

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