Age discrimination is alive and well and on the rise in American companies. Between 1997 and 2007, there were between (approximately) 16,000 and 19,000 age discrimination suits filed annually. In 2008, the situation changed. Since then, the average number of suits has been topping out at closer to 25,000 a year.
The tricky part is walking the fine line between true age discrimination and companies that hire or retain a younger workforce because their skill levels are more commensurate with the company’s needs. Here are some warning signs that may indicate that you are a victim of age discrimination:
- Biased Comments: An employer consistently talks about needing to present a “more youthful image,” or refers to you as “grandma” or as being “over-the-hill.”
- Favoritism: Younger employees are consistently given better assignments, better leads, better equipment, more frequent promotions or pay raises.
- Disparate Discipline: If you are consistently getting written up or disciplined for even minor infractions for which your younger co-workers are not even verbally reprimanded, it could be a warning sign.
- Hiring/Firing Patterns: A company that is engaged in deliberate age discrimination will set a pattern of only hiring younger age workers, and fire or let go only workers above a certain age.
- Milestones: Some employers think that employees automatically become less competent when they hit a certain age. If you turn a certain age, 50 or 60, for example, and your boss suddenly starts giving you negative performance reviews and consistently starts writing you up (despite no change in your actual performance), or begins making frequent references to your retirement, you may be a victim of age discrimination.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is one example of a Federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who are 40 years old and over. If you believe you have been the victim of age discrimination, you may wish to consult with an attorney. If you are a victim, you may be entitled to compensation.