According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011, people over 65 constituted 4.7% of the entire American workforce. However, in 2021, the number had increased to 6.6% and is projected to reach 9.1% by the year 2031. Clearly, more and more older adults are expected to continue working later in life in the coming years.
With this sharp increase in the percentage of older employees, ageism or age discrimination in the workplace has become a major issue. While there are policies that offer protection to older employees, age discrimination still happens, most often in a subtle way.
This article explains everything you need to know about age discrimination in the workplace and how to deal with it. We’ve also shared some real-life examples to give you a clearer picture of what to look out for in your own job.
What Is Age Discrimination?
Age discrimination in the workplace occurs when an individual (be it an employee or a job seeker) is treated unfairly because of their age. Although ageism can affect both young and old employees, it mostly affects people over 45 years of age.
Just like other types of workplace discrimination, ageism can happen in two ways:
- Direct Discrimination
- Subtle/Indirect Discrimination
Suppose your employer fired an employee and told them it was because of their age – this qualifies as direct age discrimination. Similarly, it’s direct discrimination if an employee is denied growth opportunities (promotions, training, etc.) because they might retire soon or if an employment contract doesn’t include certain benefits like dental coverage because older people may have more issues.
Subtle or Indirect Discrimination
Age discrimination or any other type of workplace discrimination is illegal in the United States. Sometimes, employers are fully aware of this and discriminate in less evident ways.
For example, an employer may only interview young candidates for a position. While these candidates may be perfectly qualified, they may be avoiding older applicants due to discriminatory reasons.
More Examples of Ageism in the Workplace
- Not hiring an individual because the employer prefers a younger-looking employee.
- Terminating or firing an individual because the management thinks they are too old, even if age is not a barrier to performing the duties of the job.
- Turning an employee down for promotion because of age or any disability that naturally comes with age.
- Making age-related remarks about an employee, such as the individual being “ancient” or “over the hill”.
- Giving a negative performance review to an employee because they were perceived to be inflexible or too old to be on certain projects.
These are only a handful of examples of ageism in the workplace that can be mentally or physically taxing for an employee. Whether direct or indirect, age discrimination is unlawful, and the law forbids New York employers from conducting or encouraging such practices.
Is age discrimination affecting your job performance or overall well-being? Are you an at-will employee that was terminated due to your age? Does your employer treat you differently in terms of growth opportunities than younger coworkers? The law gives you the right to take legal action against these practices. Contact the expert workplace discrimination lawyers at Levine & Blit and get all the employment benefits you deserve.
Call us at 212-967-3000 to schedule a Free Case Evaluation and explore your legal options.
Real-Life Cases of Age Discrimination or Ageism
Many older workers face age discrimination in the workplace, even if they are highly qualified and experienced. It’s a form of prejudice that can seriously affect a person’s career and livelihood.
Here are some real-life cases of ageism in the workplace:
Case 1: Ex-Mets Pitching Coach Phil Regan Sues Team Over Age Discrimination
Phil Regan – a popular American professional baseball pitcher, scout, and manager in Major League Baseball – is suing the New York Mets over age discrimination.
Regan claims he was fired from his position as pitching coach because of his age. He was 82 at the time and had been coaching in the Major League for over 50 years. Despite his extensive experience, he alleges that the Mets organization made disparaging remarks about his age and made it clear that they preferred younger coaches.
It’s frustrating to see cases where older workers are pushed out of their job or passed over for opportunities simply because of their age.
However, unlike other victims, Regan decided to raise his voice against the wrongdoings and stood up against age discrimination. Our own expert employment lawyer, Matthew J. Blit, assisted Regan in filing a lawsuit against the Mets and will fight to prove wrongful termination.
Hopefully, his case will bring more attention to this important issue and change how employers view and treat older workers.
Case 2: Discrimination Against the Young (Leia’s Case)
Age discrimination is not only a problem affecting older workers, but can also affect younger workers.
In a recent event, Leia, a young member of a business-development team, faced age discrimination from her superiors, who believed she was too young and ambitious for the job. Despite trying to change her appearance and behavior to be taken more seriously, she felt her growth potential was limited and eventually left the company.
As you can see, age-related discrimination, traditionally seen as something only older employees experience, also affects younger workers and can potentially impact their careers. New research suggests that the youngest team members may be bearing the brunt of workplace ageism currently.
We hear stories of older workers being told they’re “overqualified” for a job, which is often a code for “too old.” Or they may be told they’re not a “good fit” for a company culture that values youth and “startup energy.”
Irrespective of their age, workers should not face discrimination based on their age, as they bring valuable experience and skills to the workplace.
Why Do We Not Tolerate Age Discrimination?
Age discrimination in the workplace can take a toll on an individual’s professional and personal life. Moreover, it affects other employees and creates a culture that encourages discriminatory and unlawful practices. Here are some reasons why we don’t tolerate age discrimination.
It Creates a Lack of Job Opportunities
Employees who are discriminated against because of their age may miss out on job opportunities, such as promotions or new positions for which they are qualified. Thus, it limits their career advancement and earning potential.
It Has a Significant Financial Impact
Ageism might also result in reduced pay or lost benefits, which can have a significant financial impact on employees. Being passed over for promotions and having fewer employment benefits can make it challenging for the affected employees to sustain themselves and their families.
It May Erode Dignity
Discrimination undermines an employee’s sense of dignity and self-worth. It can be particularly damaging to older employees, who have spent their careers building their reputations and developing expertise.
It Can Have Health Consequences
Apart from mental distress, age discrimination can also have physical health consequences, such as increased stress and anxiety, leading to various health problems.
At Levine & Blit, we don’t tolerate workplace discrimination of any kind and are here to assist you with your ageism case. Whether you are looking to file a complaint or a lawsuit to prove wrongful termination based on age, our professional lawyers can help you navigate the legal process and represent you in court.
We work diligently with an aim to get the outcome in your favor, be it fair compensation or reinstatement of your job. Call us at 212-967-3000 for a Free Case Evaluation, and have the best employment lawyers in New York fight for your rights.
How to Prove Age Discrimination in the Workplace
New York is an at-will employment state, so it can be challenging to prove ageism since the burden of proof is on you. Here are some helpful tips on how you can prove you were a victim of age discrimination.
The first step in proving age discrimination is to gather evidence that shows a pattern of discrimination against older workers. Make sure to gather everything you think can play a role in supporting your claim.
This can include documents such as emails, memos, performance evaluations, job applications, and other relevant records. If possible, try to obtain evidence that directly links discriminatory behavior to age, such as comments or statements that indicate bias against older workers.
You can gather physical evidence to prove discrimination that exists on paper, but to prove verbal discrimination, you must document incidents. Make notes of all incidents where you were treated unfairly or differently because of your age.
Be sure to record the dates, times, locations, and names of those involved in each incident, as it can help you relate the evidence to the event.
Sometimes behavior that looks discriminatory isn’t due to ageism, but is your employer’s natural behavior or part of the job requirement. Look for clear examples where younger workers were given preferential treatment or given opportunities that you were denied.
If you can show a clear difference in treatment based on age, it can be strong evidence of age discrimination.
Consult a Legal Professional
If you think you are a victim of workplace discrimination, it is essential to consult a professional attorney. Lawyers can examine the evidence while studying the pattern to determine if a case of ageism exists.
Professional wrongful termination attorneys can also negotiate with your employer to restore your job, employment benefits, or other solutions before filing a lawsuit.
File a Complaint
There are several agencies and organizations in the United States where you can file a complaint of ageism in the workplace. For example, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a state-level agency responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws.
After you file a complaint against your employer with the help of a lawyer, the agency will investigate your claim and determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with legal action, such as discrimination or wrongful termination lawsuits against your former employer. If they find clear evidence of age discrimination, they may even help you file a lawsuit.
What Are the Laws in New York Regarding Age Discrimination?
Several state and federal laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forbid employers from discriminating against employees and job candidates. Knowing these laws helps you prevent discriminatory behavior and can give you the upper hand when negotiating with your employer.
Below we’ve compiled a list of some laws with a brief explanation:
Executive Law §296 is a New York State law that prohibits discrimination against individuals based on their age and other protected characteristics such as race, creed, color, national origin, citizenship or immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, or status as a victim of domestic violence.
It applies to employers with four or more employees and covers employees of all ages, including young and old. Under this state law, employers are forbidden from discriminating against employees based on age in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, pay, and benefits. The law also offers protection to employees against age-based and sexual harassment.
Victims of ageism can file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights to recover back pay, lost wages, front pay, and other damages as stated in Executive Law §296.
New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL)
The NYCHRL is another local law that provides additional protections against age-based discrimination in New York City. Besides age, the law covers other protected characteristics in order to offer employees extensive protection from discriminatory behavior.
Under the NYCHRL, New York employers with four or more employees cannot discriminate against their workforce or make employment-related decisions based on employees’ age.
The law provides additional protections for employees who are victims of discrimination by allowing them to file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Moreover, it is one of the strongest human rights laws in the country and is very employee friendly.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
The ADEA is a federal law that prohibits employers in the United States from discriminating against employees who are 40 or older. Unlike NYCHRL, this law applies to employers with 20 or more employees, but it also covers all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, and pay.
According to this act, New York employers cannot make employment decisions considering the employee’s age as the sole factor. The law also prohibits employers from harassing based on age or retaliating against employees who file a complaint.
Employees who believe they have been victims of age discrimination can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If the EEOC finds evidence of discrimination, it may pursue legal action on behalf of the employee or issue a right-to-sue letter that allows the employee to file a wrongful termination lawsuit or another lawsuit, depending on the case.
💡 An Important Note
ADEA has strict procedural requirements, including statutes of limitations stating that employees must file a complaint with the EEOC within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory action. Employees who believe they have been victims of age discrimination should consult with an attorney to learn their legal rights and options under the ADEA.
New York Labor Law
New York Labor Law is a comprehensive state law that covers many aspects of employment law in the state. While the law does not specifically address age discrimination, it does include provisions that protect employees from discriminatory practices.
The provisions are related to minimum wage, overtime, meal and rest breaks, and other essential employment issues that can affect an employee because of their age.
Employees who feel they are a victim of ageism in the workplace can file a complaint with agencies like the EEOC under state age discrimination and wrongful termination laws.
How Can a Lawyer Help You With Your Age Discrimination Case in New York?
Dealing with ageism in the workplace is a challenge, but a lawyer can make things easier for you. Professional attorneys can help you with your age discrimination case in New York in several ways:
Evaluating Your Case
A lawyer can review the facts of your case and determine whether you have a valid claim for age discrimination. They can also explain the legal process and the potential outcomes of your case.
Lawyers understand that the proof of burden is on you, so they help you gather evidence to support your claim, including documents, witness statements, expert testimony, and other information that can prove that you were discriminated against because of your age.
Filing a Complaint
There are statutes of limitations for filing a complaint of age discrimination, and a lawyer can help you file a complaint correctly within these limitations. They can also ensure that your complaint meets all requirements and deadlines.
Negotiating a Settlement
Sometimes, employers decide to settle the case out of court and lawyers will deal with your employer’s legal representatives to negotiate fair compensation. Your wrongful termination attorney handles everything on your behalf, from sending notices to your employer to replying to their questions.
Representing You in Court
Lawyers can represent you and advocate for your interests in court if things don’t work out in negotiation. They can prepare and present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and argue on your behalf.
Fair Workplace for All: Say No to Age Discrimination & Wrongful Termination
Age discrimination in the workplace is unlawful, and there are laws to protect you from such misconduct. If you think your employer has discriminated against you because of your age, you can file a complaint and possibly a lawsuit against them.
Professional employment attorneys at Levine & Blit stand with you shoulder-to-shoulder to fight against the wrongdoing. We will call on all our legal expertise and approaches we’ve developed over the years of successfully bringing forth such cases.
Contact us today to speak to our age discrimination and wrongful termination attorneys in NY about your case. Book your Free Case Evaluation today!