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An aging workforce may face discrimination in Minnesota

Minnesota employees, along with workers all across the country, are protected under the law from a number of illegal discriminatory practices. Companies are not allowed to deny or terminate employment based solely on factors like a worker's race, gender, disability or a number of other characteristics. Age is one such quality that cannot be used to determine an older person's competency or desirability as a current or prospective employee. However, age discrimination in the workplace may be on the rise in the U.S., reinforcing the need for employment law guidelines to protect older employees.

Over the age of 40, most workers are protected under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. This federal law prohibits employers from forcing older staff members to retire based on their age. Similarly, employers cannot disqualify a job candidate for any position because of their age alone. If an employer suspects that an older employee is having difficulties performing their duties due to the aging process, he or she must address such issues as they would other disabilities.

Despite the fact that older employees have been guarded from wrongful termination and other forms of illegal discrimination for years, cases continue to rise. Age discrimination claims have increased dramatically in the last 10 years, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The jump in cases filed may be attributed-at least in part-to the fact that more middle-aged and elderly people are continuing to work later in life. Therefore, the employee rights of all workers, no matter their age, must be recognized and respected by their superiors. If a person feels that they may be the victim of age-related mistreatment in the workplace, he or she has the right to seek legal counsel and representation to ensure that their rights and livelihood are legally protected.

Source: Star Tribune, "Business forum: We each must make our own decision on when to quit," V. John Ella, March 3, 2013

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