Are You Treated Unfairly or Targeted by Your Employer Because Of Your Age?
Age discrimination in the workplace occurs in many ways —from offensive comments to isolation, to even an unwarranted negative performance review. Senior employees can be the targets of these kinds of behavior when the goal is to remove them from the workplace. In short, if you feel you have been treated differently because of your age, you may be the victim of age discrimination. If you have concerns about age discrimination in the workplace, it is important to contact the age discrimination attorneys at an experienced employment law firm for guidance.
As our country faces unsettled economic times, we often hear about companies downsizing and initiating layoffs to reduce costs. Long-tenured, experienced employees should be an employer’s most valued asset; however, many older professionals, particularly Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, find they are targets in these layoffs. Downsizing is often viewed as an opportunity to eliminate more senior employees who may have the highest salaries or interfere with the company’s desire to depict a “younger” image. Employers can also create a hostile and stressful work environment for older employees by making offensive comments about age or abilities, denying promotions or training, and using unwarranted discipline, negative performance reviews, or demotions to isolate or force an older employee to resign. Just as discrimination occurs in the workplace based on race, gender, or disability, unfair and illegal treatment is often experienced by employees based on their age.
The age discrimination attorneys at Halunen Law understand how challenging it can be to retain employment after age 40, or how difficult it may be to find new employment opportunities when you are an older professional looking for work. Halunen Law has a proven record of success representing many employees who have experienced discrimination based on their age. Our firm is here to provide guidance regardless of your employment status. Whether you are still employed and have questions about your options, have been terminated, were forced to resign or retire early, or experienced a layoff due to a reduction in force, our attorneys are here to provide their expertise to help you get the fairness and justice you deserve.
10 Possible Signs of Age Discrimination at Work:
- The oldest person on a team is let go during a downsizing, even though they are more skilled, tenured, or capable than younger employees.
- A high-performing older employee is suddenly disciplined for performance issues.
- An older employee does not get the same training opportunities as a younger counterpart.
- A layoff or reduction in force occurs and the majority of employees selected are all over 40 or near retirement.
- Senior employees are being pressured to retire.
- An older employee is reassigned unpleasant tasks or a new role that is beneath their skill level.
- An older employee hears offensive, tacky, or derogatory comments about their age or abilities.
- The employer has a pattern of hiring only younger employees.
- An older employee is being isolated from the team or held to higher standards.
- An older, high-performing employee begins to receive poor performance reviews.
Legal Protections for Employees Experiencing Age Discrimination
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
A federal law, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621, et seq., provides certain legal protections for you in the workplace. It protects most workers who are 40 years old or older from employment discrimination based on their age.
The ADEA applies to private employers with 20 or more employees, state and local governments, employment agencies, labor organizations, and the federal government.
What Practices Are Prohibited Under the ADEA?
Discriminatory actions – The ADEA prohibits discrimination against an employee over 40, which occurs when an employer hires, fires, demotes, or denies a promotion based on age.
Harassment or a hostile work environment – Examples of behavior that can contribute to a hostile work environment are ageist remarks, insults, isolation, and baseless discipline against an employee over age 40. The harasser can be the employee’s supervisor, a supervisor in another department, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee, such as a client or customer.
Retaliation – It is unlawful to retaliate against an employee who reports being treated differently due to their age. Examples may include termination, demotion, denial of promotion, unwarranted discipline, an unjustified negative performance review or PIP, suspension, forced leave, reduction in pay or hours, denial of benefits, reassignment that negatively impacts promotion, and change of job duties.
Advertising and Referrals – The ADEA also prohibits printing or publishing any notice or advertisement identifying any age preference, limitation, specification, or discrimination against older employees. For example, an employment agency may not refuse to refer a job applicant for employment because they are over 40.
Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA)
The Minnesota Human Rights Act, Minn. Stat. § 363A.08 also prohibits age discrimination in employment for those 18 years old and older. Though most people think of age discrimination against older employees, under the MHRA Minnesota employers are also prohibited from discriminating against younger individuals on the basis of age. For example, an employer cannot harass or refuse to hire someone who is 22-years-old simple because the individual is perceived as “too young.”
Reduction in Force and Severance Agreements
Unfortunately, long-tenured employees can be the target in a reduction in force (sometimes referred to as a “RIF”). Often employers that need to eliminate roles and reduce their workforce will single out employees over 40 years old or who are close to retirement. Employers that use a RIF to eliminate older employees may be liable for age discrimination. The employer’s process of selecting which employees to lay off and which to retain can be subject to review. In some circumstances, employers are required to provide information, including ages, about employees selected in the RIF and those not selected.
Often, an employer will present you with a severance package as a part of the reduction in force, job elimination, or layoff. Before signing any agreement it is critical to contact an attorney to fully understand your options and discuss any possible discrimination or retaliation concerns you may have. Many of the clients we represent have been victims of discrimination or whistleblower retaliation,” which means they can have a claim against the employer or stand to receive compensation that far exceeds the severance package offered. The terms of your severance package can have a significant bearing on your financial and occupational future.
At Halunen Law, our experienced employment age discrimination attorneys have an in-depth understanding of severance options and clauses, as well as non-compete agreements. Not only can we make sure the compensation you receive is appropriate, but we can also work to establish more favorable terms in other areas of your agreement when there has been a violation of law.
Whether you work for a company that seems to blatantly favor young workers or whether the discrimination is more subtle, it can be hard to know what to do. Age discrimination can leave you feeling blindsided, hopeless or frustrated as it can negatively affect your future career and retirement plans. That’s where our attorneys come in.
The age discrimination attorneys at Halunen Law have experience going toe-to-toe with employers of all sizes, and the expertise to help you get the compensation and justice you deserve. From the many age discrimination clients we’ve helped, we understand how it can feel to be mistreated due to your age and know how to fight for you. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.