The difficult economic client hasn’t been easy on older employees. Many have been forced to take early retirements—and tend to be targets in layoffs. The incentive for a company is obvious—they can often hire a younger worker to do the same job for less pay. But age discrimination is illegal. Here are a few questions to ask in determining whether you’ve been a victim—or are at risk of becoming one.
Did anyone make a biased comment about your age?
The most obvious sign of age discrimination is someone stating it plainly. If your boss keeps calling you “grandpa” or suggests you’re over the hill, be sure it’s documented. Then if you’re fired, you may have a case. This is the most direct evidence of age discrimination you can get.
Your boss may be older than you—and you could still be a victim of age discrimination. Keep an eye out for the signs—and document anything you think may indicate a bias against you because of age.
Are younger workers treated differently than older employees under the same circumstances? In the last round of layoffs, was it only the older workers who got fired? Were the younger workers who were kept on less qualified? If this has been the case, there could be an underlying case for age discrimination.
In addition, pay attention to how you’re disciplined or promoted. If a younger employee was promoted over you despite fewer qualifications, age may be a factor. Have you been written up or reprimanded for something that a younger employee has done without censure? If so, your employer could be building a case against you in preparation for firing—and your age could have something to do with it.
Are there any signs of favoritism?
In some cases, younger employees are given better assignments, equipment, or leads than older workers. This could be a sign of entrenched discrimination, or a setup for older employees to fail—so they can be fired. In addition, if you notice that you and other older employees are not invited to key meetings—or if only younger employees get invites to socialize after work—you may have a discrimination case on your hands.
Who does your company hire?
If you notice they’re only hiring younger workers, it could be a strong sign of age discrimination. This is also the case if you or an older worker you know was turned down for a promotion—in favor of a younger and less qualified employee.
Has your boss’s perception of you changed?
Maybe you used to get consistently positive performance reviews—until you turned 50. Then you started getting more negative write-ups and reviews—even though you haven’t changed your own performance. If that’s the case, there may be age discrimination at work.
Bear in mind that age discrimination is not illegal in all cases. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act says that it’s illegal to discriminate against workers because of their age—but that only applies if you’re age 40 or older. It’s also only true if the employer has at least 20 employees or is a government organization of any size. The laws can change depending on your location—some cities and states have stricter protections for employees or companies.
Your boss may be older than you—and you could still be a victim of age discrimination. Keep an eye out for the signs—and document anything you think may indicate a bias against you because of age. Age discrimination happens all the time—some employers have a financial incentive to replace older workers with younger ones because of lower salary costs and insurance premiums. But in many cases, it’s illegal. And if you’ve carefully documented the signs, you may be able to bring a case against your former employer.