If you have ever experienced unfair treatment while on the job because of your age, you may be wondering whether what happened to you crossed the line between unprofessional and illegal behavior. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is what protects you and other American workers over the age of 40 at the federal level from becoming the subject of age-related discrimination, provided your employer meets certain criteria.
More specifically, the ADEA applies to you if you work within a governmental organization, an employment agency, a labor organization with at least 25 members, or for any other employer that has a workforce of 20 or more.
Essentially, the ADEA dictates that your employer may not treat you unfairly because of your age. This can apply to many different situations. For example, managers may not lawfully take your age into consideration when making hiring or firing decisions, or when determining who to promote. Additionally, your employer generally cannot give you different benefits than other employees receive because of your age, nor force you to retire from your profession once you reach a particular age.
If you are a victim of age discrimination
Depending on the specifics of your situation, you may want to first try to handle the matter internally, either through a grievance system if it applies, or by attempting to negotiate with your employer. If these tactics fail, or if you feel they may be inappropriate or uncomfortable to pursue given your circumstances, the next step involves filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC should make your employer aware of your allegation of age discrimination and conduct a formal investigation. The organization must then decide whether to attempt conciliation, which essentially means having your employer try to remedy the problem with minimal outside intervention, or move forward with taking legal action against your place of business.
Age discrimination is a serious problem, but the ADEA seeks to protect you at the federal level, regardless of individual state laws. If you have experienced these issues at your workplace, you do not have to endure them without legal recourse.