As baby boomers grow older and the average retirement age moves up, America’s workplaces are filling with older adults. Unfortunately, this could lead to increased age discrimination in the office.
Age discrimination in the workplace is illegal against people 40 and over, but complaints have spiked in recent years. There were 16,000 – 19,000 age-related discrimination filings annually from 1997 to 2007. But in the past 10 years, this number has increased to 23,000 – 25,000 filings each year.
With age discrimination on the rise, here are three signs to look out for in the workplace:
- Your older coworkers are fired while young ones are hired. Companies often use “culture fit” as their reasoning for this. In reality, young workers are inexpensive while experienced workers are typically paid more. So, older workers are eliminated while young workers are onboarded.
- You hear offhanded comments about your age. After being fired despite receiving great reviews, 54-year-old office coordinator Debra Moreno found out the company’s owner had made negative comments about her age to other workers. He said she looked like a “bag of bones” and sounded “old on the phone.” This evidence of age discrimination helped her win nearly $200,000 in a lawsuit.
- You are demoted. This is a common way for a company to push you out the door. If you are reassigned to grunt work while younger colleagues with similar achievements maintain their position or are even promoted, you might be a victim of age discrimination.
I suspect age discrimination – now what?
You may choose to take legal action if you suspect age discrimination. However, winning an age discrimination lawsuit isn’t always an easy task. It’s hard to prove a correlation between age and unfair treatment in the workplace. Here are a few ways to help win an age discrimination lawsuit:
- Gather hard evidence. While many employers might make distasteful comments, many also know how to cover their tracks. Hard evidence is helpful when proving discrimination. Look for written employer communications or recordings of team meetings that support your claim.
- Involve a coworker. If your boss sparks an inappropriate conversation about your age and a coworker is present, it may be worth it to involve them. Coworkers’ eyewitness accounts could help you in a lawsuit.
- Hold onto suspicious performance reviews. Keep copies of unexpectedly negative performance reviews. Courts can be suspicious of sudden poor reviews after consistent good ones – especially if you also have evidence to demonstrate that your performance met company expectations or matched that of other coworkers who were not mistreated.
Age discrimination can be tricky to prove. But with the increasing number of age discrimination complaints, it’s important to look out for the signs and know how to take action. An experienced employment discrimination attorney can be extremely valuable in helping you to seek justice. Contact Alan C. Olsen & Associates for help at 262-785-9606.