Most workers aged 40 and over in New York and throughout the country are protected against age discrimination by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The ADEA applies to federal, state and local governments, labor organizations, employment agencies and private employers that have at least 20 employees. It does not just protect against workplace harassment on the basis of age but also protects against demotion or termination.
Age discrimination is a serious problem. The AARP says that two-thirds of workers between 45 and 74 years old said they had witnessed age discrimination at work or experienced it themselves. After the recession of 2008-2009, workers who were at least 55 spent more than 40 weeks looking for a job on average. In comparison, younger workers were out of a job for an average of less than 32 weeks.
Employers are permitted to ask a person’s age and years of graduation, but they are not permitted to use that information in making a hiring decision for an older employee. People who feel they are facing age discrimination at work may want to start by finding out if their company has a way to address the problems internally. If this is not effective, the worker can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or talk to an attorney.
An attorney may also be helpful if a person is facing retaliation after pursuing a discrimination claim at work. An employer might try to claim that a worker’s performance is the issue, so the worker should document the situation and any positive feedback about job performance received. Before pursuing legal action, a person might want to consider the goal of the lawsuit. For example, some people might want compensation for lost wages while others may want their job back as well.