When it comes to the workforce, experience can cut both ways. Many advanced careers require years or decades of demonstrated experience. However, older workers are increasingly finding themselves shut out of career opportunities simply because of their age.
Employers sometimes overlook well-qualified seniors in favor of fresh young faces. When they make employment decisions purely based on age, however, they may be breaking the law.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) makes it illegal for most employers to discriminate against those ages 40 and older. Unlawful and unfair treatment can happen at any stage of the employment process, including:
- Salary and benefits
- Working conditions
- Advancement opportunities
- Layoffs, firings or forced retirements
What can you do about it?
You might be entitled to bring a legal action against your employer for compensation, reinstatement (if appropriate) and punitive damages. Before doing anything, though, talk with a lawyer about your rights. Don’t put off this important first step. If you wait too long, important deadlines could pass and evidence could fade, leaving you out of luck.
The problem of proof
You might know, deep down, that you were a victim of age discrimination. Proving it is another matter. Unless you’re lucky enough to find a smoking gun, you likely won’t have a concrete admission from your employer that their unfair actions were based on your age.
Fortunately, many types of evidence might shed light on your situation. For example:
- Perhaps your employer has engaged in an ongoing pattern of discriminatory action against older employees
- Maybe other employees have witnessed offensive remarks or persistent harassment
- Maybe you reported the age discrimination internally and your concerns were ignored – or, worse, you were fired in retaliation
You should never feel forced to remain silent about illegal age discrimination. By making your voice heard, you can seek justice and accountability – not only for yourself, but also for others in similar situations.