In New York State and across the country, treatment of employees has come to the forefront of the news. Much of that centers around sexual harassment. However, there are a seemingly endless number of ways in which an employer can be accused of committing workplace discrimination in some form. Just as harassing behaviors and the negative impact it has on the employer’s reputation and ability to function is problematic, so too is it destructive to be accused of age discrimination. Understanding what constitutes age discrimination is key when there are allegations of it. Knowing what it entails is critical to a defense.
Employees and prospective employees cannot be treated differently by an employer because of their age. This is according to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and it applies to people age 40 and above. If both workers are 40 and older, the employer does not need to worry about being accused of age discrimination for selecting the younger person. When employers commit any job action – hire a worker, fire a worker, determine wages, give assignments, accord promotions, give training, provide benefits – there can be no discrimination based on age or anything else.
People are not allowed to be harassed due to their age. Just like other forms of harassment, negative comments about a person’s age are against the law. This does not apply to gentle joking, infrequent comments, or incidents that are not serious and do not influence the person’s work. If it reaches a level of severity that the worker is dismissed or demoted or there are other adverse decisions made, then it can be considered age discrimination. Anyone can commit age discrimination. It applies not just to owners and supervisors, but co-workers and even customers.
Employers might think they are under siege from all sides with the many ways that a complaint can be lodged or a lawsuit can be filed because of workplace discrimination today. Fortunately, employers are granted protection under the law too. If there are allegations that there has been age discrimination, the employer must protect its business and its reputation by contacting a law firm that specializes in employment law for employers and begin preparation for their defense.