Age discrimination is defined as the unfair or unfavourable treatment of an employee due to their age. The age discrimination in employment act of 1967 forbids the discrimination of employees due to their age. This law, however, protects persons aged over 40 but does not include a clause for younger people. It protects employees above 40 years against discrimination in areas such as hiring, discharge, promotion, terms or privileges in employment. The age discrimination in employment act of 1975 illegalizes discrimination on the basis of age in activities and programs that receive federal financial assistance. This act applies to persons of all ages. These acts usually are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Discrimination includes but is not limited to harassment due to age. It is illegal to continually make harassing remarks to someone based on their age. Frequently isolated harassment incidents due to age are also illegal. This is especially serious when such harassment is deemed to cause a hostile working environment or when it results in negative consequences such as a demotion, firing, or quitting. Also when employment privileges are denied to an employee solely because of their age, they are allowed to sue for discrimination due to age.
A hypothetical case of discrimination against an employee based on their age would be a case where a 45-year-old man cannot find a job because prospective employers assume that he should be retired and deliberately deny him the position because of his age and in spite of his qualifications. In such a case, the age discrimination in employment act of 1967 would be this man’s backing if he decided to sue prospective or current employers for age discrimination in the workplace. This would also include layoffs or retrenchments based on age as opposed to performance.
Another case scenario would be a case where an employee got teased and harassed for being too young. In many workplaces, rookies are teased and made fun of and over time, it has become almost expected. Usually, the teasing can very quickly translate to harassment and there is often a thin line between the two. Most of these employees, however, more often than not do not know that the law protects them against discrimination of any kind in the workplace. This is especially true if the harassment is so much as to cause a hostile working environment.
Other cases of harassment would include being passed on in promotions, training and/or hiring solely based on age as opposed to qualifications or performance. Even cases of constant belittling and isolated incidences of emotional abuse or harassment due to age are also prohibited by the age discrimination in employment act. Cases of layoffs and retrenchments for being too young are included in unfair and discriminatory treatment due to age. While it is important that young people who are new to employment learn and work to keep up, they need to know to what extent harassment becomes discriminatory and qualifies for unfair and illegal treatment.
There are signs that employees can look out to determine whether or not they are being discriminated based on age. One of the most common signs is constant or frequent biased comments. These include but are not limited to name-calling and constant teasing in regards to age. For instance, if your employer or colleagues keep calling you kid because you are too young, or grandpa because you are too old, or if they make snide remarks about your retirement plans, these comments could form the basis for a strong age discrimination case against them.
Other evidence of age discrimination includes different treatment from fellow employees due to one’s age. If employers or colleagues exclude an employee from their inner circle, decision making, activities or privileges because they are too young or too old, or not old enough, then this qualifies as discriminatory behaviour against the said employee. Obvious favouritism to other employees presumed to be of favourable age, being passed by on promotions and growth opportunities for not being the right age, and a generally negative attitude due to one’s age also qualify as signs of discrimination in the workplace due to age.
Age discrimination not only affects the victim but could also be very destructive to a company’s work environment as well as its reputation. Often, age discrimination is not only illegal but is usually a sign of ignorance and unethical behaviour of the perpetrator. Usually, the employers are often the perpetrators, and more often than not they make assumptions about an employee based on age and use these unfounded assumptions to discriminate against an employee. This is likely to affect the victim’s productivity. This means that while the victim loses out on a positive work environment, the company loses out on the victim’s full productivity potential.
It is also common knowledge that businesses are out to make profits. This is the reason emphasis is made on qualification, experience, ability, and performance. Managers and persons in authority need to be trained to look out for the right qualifications in their employees in order to aid the course of the business. For instance, passing on a qualified, talented and able employee due to their age limits both the employee and the company. The employee misses out on a growth opportunity while the company loses out on the employee’s input. Looking beyond age is not only ethical and legal but is a smart move for the company.
Sometimes employees make assumptions out of ignorance or a habit they may have formed subconsciously. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the company to point out that employment must be based on qualifications and not age so that management and fellow employees are aware. It is also important that this issue is addressed clearly in a company’s code of business conduct or work ethic. This eliminates the cases that happen due to ignorance or because the issue is not directly addressed. The company itself must take the initiative to address this issue before it occurs.
If an employee suspects that they are being discriminated against due to their age, they need to contact an employment lawyer who would bid their case. Usually, the cases differ for different victims. For instance, an employee may be laid off or retrenched solely due to their age. In such a case, the employment lawyer can represent them in court when they sue against age discrimination. They can either have their jobs back or negotiate a better send-off package from their previous employer. Either way, they get to receive compensation for wrongful and unfair termination.
In cases where the employee is being harassed at the workplace so much as to cause a hostile working environment, they can have an employment lawyer represent them in court to stop the perpetrators or to be compensated for any losses they may have suffered as a result of age discrimination. It is also important to bring the perpetrators to justice to save future employees from suffering age discrimination in the workplace. In some cases, only the law can intervene and stop age discrimination in the workplace. In other cases, however, employment lawyers can help the employee who’s been victimized reach a settlement with the perpetrator(s) so as to stop further discrimination. This may include better treatment at the workplace, or in case the employee leaves, a good compensation package.
Litigation is likely to reflect negatively on the company and should, therefore, be avoided entirely. In addition to this, it is expensive should they lose the case. However, whether or not they lose the case, the fact that they’ve been sued by an employee is likely to ruin their reputation and may affect investors’ willingness to invest in the company. It may also cause qualified persons to shy away from working for the company in future. The company also needs to work to create a positive working environment among employees in order to maximize their productivity. Disgruntled employees are less loyal to their companies and are not likely to go the extra mile in their duties. Seeing as most adults spend most of their day at the workplace, a negative environment eventually demoralizes them. A positive environment rejuvenates them and improves productivity.