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Understanding age discrimination in the workplace

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers against age discrimination who are age 40 or older. Age discrimination is against the law in any aspect of employment. This includes hiring, firing, promotions, job assignments, training, benefits and others.

It also against the law to harass employees because of their age. Harassment refers to behavior that either creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision for the victim. While the harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, the law also recognizes that the harasser could be a co-worker or non-employee like a client.

Age discrimination examples

Age discrimination can be presented in many different ways and there are some common signs employees can look for. If younger workers are offered opportunities for advancement, training or other projects that older workers are not, that may be a sign of age discrimination.

Employers who make ageist comments or use abusive language toward older workers, who assume that older workers don’t know how to use technology or social media or who layoff older workers and have younger workers take over their responsibilities through a different title or restructure may also be discriminating based on age.

It may also occur in less obvious ways, such as when younger workers are invited to social events and older workers are left out or where they are not invited to participate in company events, like team sports for example, that may also be evidence of age discrimination.

Workers who have years of experience should be valued in the workplace and appreciated for their contributions. If a worker has been discriminated against based on age, there is help available to pursue a claim.