There are eight protected classes in the workplace, which means that an employer cannot fire someone because of their race, skin color, religion, sex (which includes gender identity, pregnancy status, and sexual orientation), national origin, genetic information, disability status, or age. While many employees know the first few protected classes we listed, they often forget that age is also protected. Workplace age discrimination is real, though, and as seniors in the workforce, you may experience it. Look for the following common examples to determine whether your employer is mistreating you based on age.
You Constantly Hear Ageist Comments
The workplace is a social place, and we can hear all types of opinions, thoughts, and commentaries throughout the day. Usually, this isn’t an issue. However, if fellow employees or those in management use social time to make derogatory jokes or comments about the age of certain employees such as yourself, then there is an issue. They may try to tell you they’re only joking or try to make these comments where you can’t hear them. Regardless of the supposed intent of the speaker, ageist comments such as these are harassment and, potentially, discrimination.
Your Employer Overlooks and Isolates You
Age discrimination can go beyond verbal harassment. Employers who are trying to get rid of older employees often pass them over for promotions even though they have the right experience and qualifications. This frustrating experience forces many older employees to consider leaving for other jobs. Management may also deliberately leave older employees like yourself out of meetings and decision-making processes. This limits your effectiveness in the workplace, which is another tactic that can subtly force you to leave. They can also use this manufactured ineffectiveness as grounds for disciplinary action or as a legal smokescreen for letting you go.
Older Employees Experience Unfair Discipline
Frequent disciplinary action is a legitimate reason to let an employee go. However, some employers will initiate unfair discipline against older employees to create legitimate reasoning and avoid a discrimination lawsuit. You’ll need a lot of evidence to prove workplace discrimination, and they know this. If they can quickly point to disciplinary action as evidence, they can avoid discrimination claims. However, if you notice a pattern of older employees receiving extra, unwarranted disciplinary action or have contradictory evidence supporting good performance, you can prove ageism.
Unfortunately, there are many common examples of workplace discrimination, and we can’t summarize them all. Keep your eyes and ears open for any activity from fellow employees or management related to your age in the workplace. If you experience harassment or discrimination, gather evidence and prepare for a lawsuit so you can correct this unfair situation.