You have worked in the same restaurant for years. Even though you are a reliable employee, you have started to notice that your supervisors are treating you negatively. They make critical remarks about your age, they favor younger female employees over you and they are promoting workers who are less experienced than you are. You know that you are good at your job, and you have loyally supported the restaurant, even through hard times. So why are you being treated this way?
The problem may be age-based discrimination. It is illegal for employers to discriminate against workers based on their age, but this does not stop some employers from doing it. Women who have customer-facing jobs in the restaurant industry are particularly vulnerable to age discrimination.
Understanding age discrimination against women
There is an extensive body of research indicating that women suffer from age discrimination more than their male peers do. Age-based discrimination is founded in many negative stereotypes about women’s competence as they age. For example, some women choose to take time off from their careers to raise their children. When they try to return to the workforce, an employer may consider them too inexperienced or too old to continue.
Women also face harsh criticism about their looks as they age. Female restaurant workers who must interact with customers—waitresses and hostesses, for example—may be pressured by their employers to look young and attractive for male patrons.
Age discrimination and the law
There are two major laws that prohibit age discrimination: The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the New York Human Rights Law. These laws make it illegal for any company that employs more than four people to discriminate against workers over the age of 40. However, some employers choose to disregard these laws by favoring younger workers. In these situations, you are still entitled to your rights—and you may have legal options. Sometimes, employees who are the victims of age-based discrimination are entitled to compensation for lost wages and other professional or emotional damages.