If a 25-year-old and a 65-year-old have the requisite skills to perform the same job, an employer cannot discriminate between the two employees on the basis of age. By virtue of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, employers cannot make hiring, firing, pay, promotion or other employment-related decisions on the basis of age for employees who are 40 years of age and older.
In addition, federal law prohibits employers from making harassing or discriminating statements regarding an employee’s age. Although such discriminating statements may not be extremely harmful when they only happen once, if they are repeated over an over, they can damage an employee emotionally and psychologically. They could serve as proof that the employer is passing up the employee for promotions, pay raises and other employment benefits.
Examples of discriminatory statements about age
Here are 10 statements about age that an employment law court could view as discriminatory in nature:
— Jokes that make fun of elderly individuals.
— Statements like, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” that refer to specific individuals at work.
— Referring to someone with colloquial expressions and “slang” that point to his or her age. These might include: “past his prime,” “old-school,” “golden-ager,” “she’s seen better days,” “long-in-the-tooth,” “from the old guard” and other crude terminology that may be felt as an age-related put-down by someone who is 40 years of age an older.
— Referring to someone as “overqualified.”
— Statements like, “It’s time for some young blood in the office.”
— When management says, “It would be nice to hire some fresh faces here.”
— Frequent questions about when and if an employee plans to retire.
— Questions about whether an employee will be comfortable working for a younger person.
— Statements like this one, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture used while hiring. The department said its goal was to hire “younger highly qualified professionals [who] will have a modern professionally managed information infrastructure at their disposal.”
— Describing people as “digital natives” and “digital immigrants.” This is a way of saying that people of a younger generation are naturally better at using new technology than people of an older generation.
Were you harmed by age discrimination at work?
If you were harmed by age discrimination at work, evidence pertaining to discriminatory statements like those referenced can help support your claims for financial damages. If you’ve been subjected to comments and insults like these, make sure to write them down. Include the date, the speaker, the context of the statement and the exact wording of the statement in your notes.