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Ageism: What you should know about age discrimination

Age discrimination isn't something everyone deals with, but for those who do, it's a devastating kind of discrimination to face. Instead of being supported for years of service and learning, you end up being mistreated just because you're a few years older than others in your industry.

Age discrimination is against the law thanks to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It's not legal to discriminate against workers who are 40 years of age or older. However, there are no protections for those who are 39 years old or younger. It's also not illegal for employers to favor an older worker, even if they're both at least 40 years old.

When are people protected against age discrimination?

When you're looking to get hired, promoted or paid, age should not come into the equation. Employers are unable to discriminate based on age when considering promotions, hiring, firing, creating job assignments, obtaining benefits for employees or training. They may also not lay off workers based on age when workers are 40 or older.

Can age discrimination include harassment?

Yes. Age discrimination can also be in the form of harassment. For example, if you start a new job and immediately have people start calling you nicknames referring to your age, this could be a kind of harassment. One instance of name-calling or using a nickname isn't likely to be harassment, but if it's persistent, you may have a case. Also, remember that any time a work environment becomes hostile or behaviors result in adverse employment decisions, you may be able to prove that you were discriminated against due to your age.

Age discrimination can happen to anyone at any time. You could face age discrimination when starting work at an IT-related job where most employees are young. You might face discrimination applying for a marketing or promotions job because someone who is hiring thinks the person promoting the company needs to look younger than you.

The reality of age discrimination is that it can be hard to prove without substantial evidence, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. If you're passed over for a promotion you deserve and it's given to a younger person with less experience, are turned down for a job because someone believes you look too old, or get laid off because you're older and coming up on retirement, you may have a strong case to take to court. Your attorney can help you look over the facts and decide if your case has enough evidence to pursue it.

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