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More about age discrimination in the workplace

Our previous post began a discussion about a specific type of workplace discrimination that you might not often hear about. Sexual harassment gets a lot of attention in the media and even through work training. But someone can be discriminated against because of their age (older age), too. 

As we already noted in the last blog post, the first basis of an age discrimination case is that the supposed victim is at least 40 years old. The discrimination must have created a hostile work environment and not, for example, just been an isolated incident of tame teasing. 

Another important aspect of an age discrimination claim is that the supposed harasser must not have had another reasonable cause for the reported actions. But what might a reasonable cause be?

If an employer can show that there was a "reasonable factor other than age" (RFOA) behind the supposed discrimination against an older worker, the worker might lose his or her case.

The EEOC lists the following as RFOAs that could support an employer's side of a discrimination case:

  • The action in-question is common within overall business practices.
  • The action in-question is directly related to business goals applicable to the employee.
  • The action in-question hasn't/doesn't have a disparate impact on older workers specifically.
  • The action in-question was properly explained to the worker, with the stated reason seemingly applied fairly to the situation.

These are some of the reasons why an employer's actions towards an older worker or job applicant could be deemed ethical within the scope of current U.S. employment laws. As you can see by the above factors, it could be difficult to gauge whether something is discrimination or fair behavior.

If you have any concerns about your treatment within the workplace or job application process, talk to an employment attorney about your situation in order to understand your possible options.

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