Understanding Age Discrimination in the Workplace: Your Rights and Legal Remedies
Age discrimination is, unfortunately, an all-too-common problem for Missouri employees. Worse, it can have long-lasting repercussions on an individual’s career trajectory and well-being. Thankfully, various legal avenues exist to protect your rights when you’re faced with age-based prejudice at work. Kansas City employment lawyer Phillip Murphy II is an expert at defending the rights of employees against age-based prejudice, providing invaluable guidance and legal representation to those affected.
What is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)?
In 1967, the U.S. government took decisive action against the challenges older workers faced by enacting the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). This legislation was designed to level the playing field.
The ADEA specifically protects individuals over the age of 40. Any employer with more than 20 employees must comply with ADEA requirements. Employment decisions like hiring, granting promotions, layoffs, forced retirement, or any other aspect of employment cannot be based on age. This same requirement also extends to job advertisements. The law clearly states that ads cannot specify age preferences, eliminating phrases like “young” from the hiring vocabulary.
In 1990, the protections of the ADEA grew to include The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA). Now, older employees had assurance that they wouldn’t be shortchanged on benefits. However, there are specific scenarios where benefits for older employees might be reduced, but only if the cost is the same as providing full benefits to younger workers.
The ADEA represents a significant commitment by the U.S. to ensure a fair workplace for all, regardless of age. By recognizing and countering age-based prejudice, it underscores the importance of experience and wisdom in the workforce and affirms the rights of older workers to be judged by their merits, and by not their birthdate.
What Qualifies as Age Discrimination at Work?
Age discrimination occurs when an employee or job applicant over the age of 40 experiences adverse employment action (like being passed over for a job or promotion) primarily because of their age. Such discrimination can manifest in various ways, including:
- Hiring Decisions: Employers may not avoid hiring someone solely based on their age. This means that overlooking a qualified older candidate in favor of a younger candidate, purely due to age-related biases, is discriminatory.
- Compensation: Older workers should receive compensation comparable to younger employees in similar roles. If there’s a discrepancy in pay based solely on age, it falls under age discrimination.
- Termination and Layoffs: If older employees are consistently or disproportionately affected by company-wide layoffs, there might be grounds for age discrimination. Older workers may not be forced into early retirement without a valid reason either.
- Training and Advancement: Denying older employees opportunities for training or career advancement based on age is discriminatory. For instance, if an employer assumes an older employee would not benefit from a training program or isn’t interested in advancing further due to nearing retirement, this is a prejudiced perspective.
- Job Assignments: If older workers are consistently given less desirable or lower-profile assignments than their younger counterparts without a valid performance-related reason, it may be due to age bias.
- Workplace Harassment: Age discrimination isn’t just about hiring, firing, or promotions. Persistent jokes or derogatory comments about an employee’s age can create a hostile work environment, which is also a violation of the ADEA.
- Benefits and Perks: Older employees should have access to the same company benefits, perks, and opportunities as younger employees.
Grasping these subtleties is essential for employees to identify infringements on their rights and for employers to cultivate a workplace that is inclusive, equitable, and respects age diversity.
Rights of Missouri Employees
Both federal and state laws protect Missouri employees against age discrimination. Under the Missouri Human Rights Act, employers with at least 6 employees are prohibited from discriminating based on age. This act provides a wider scope of protection than the ADEA, as it covers smaller businesses. However, there is one respect in which the law is narrower: the MHRA does not protect employees over the age of 70.
Your rights include:
- The right to a workplace free of age-based harassment.
- The right to be considered equally for employment opportunities, regardless of age.
- The right to pursue legal action if discriminated against because of age.
How To Prove You’ve Been Discriminated Against Because of Your Age
Proving age discrimination can be complex, requiring a combination of direct and circumstantial evidence. Here are steps to strengthen your claim:
- Document Everything: Keep records of all interactions that suggest age discrimination.
- Witnesses: Colleagues who’ve observed discriminatory behavior can be crucial to your case.
- Compare Treatment: If younger employees are consistently treated more favorably in similar situations, note these disparities.
- Employer’s Statements: Comments about age, even if made casually, can be instrumental evidence.
- Consistent Performance Records: If your performance reviews have been positive and there’s a sudden change after a certain age, it may be indicative.
Why Choose the Law Office of Phillip Murphy II?
Navigating the complexities of an age discrimination claim demands not only a deep understanding of the law but also a compassionate and dedicated advocate. That’s precisely what you get with Phillip Murphy II.
Having secured favorable outcomes in numerous age discrimination claims, his experience as a Kansas City employment attorney is vast and varied. From negotiations to courtroom battles, his assertive representation ensures that clients’ voices are heard, and their rights are protected. If you believe you’ve suffered age discrimination in the workplace, contact Phillip Murphy today for a complimentary case review.