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How Difficult is it to Prove Age Discrimination?

by | Jan 25, 2023 | Employment Law |

Age discrimination is illegal in the U.S. under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits any discrimination against employees aged 40 and above. If you are treated unfairly, denied employment, or lose your position due to your age, then you may be able to file a claim against your company for ageism. To help you understand your rights and options, this article will detail how to identify age discrimination, and how difficult it is to prove it in a court of law.

What Qualifies as Age Discrimination?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines age discrimination as “treating an applicant or employee less favorably because of his or her age.” The ADEA does not apply to independent contractors or military personnel. 

While the federal law only protects individuals who are age 40 or older, some states have created their own laws to prevent age discrimination against younger people as well. 

Age discrimination can be considered any type of negative treatment due to your age. Examples include: 

  • Receiving negative comments and feedback about your age
  • Being denied a position or a promotion due to your age
  • Being told that you should consider retiring
  • Receiving harsher criticism than younger coworkers
  • Being denied opportunities in the workplace due to your age

In 2022, the median age of an employee was 38 years old. That figure is expected to increase to 39 by 2025. This still leaves a large percentage of the workforce at risk of discrimination, especially as younger adults enter the workforce and make up a larger percentage of companies.

Signs That You’re a Victim of Ageism

One of the greatest struggles people face in age discrimination cases is knowing whether it really happened or not. They may be told other reasons for losing their job, being denied a promotion, or not being given a position in the first place. 

There are some strong signs you may be a victim of ageism. If you can relate to any of these, then you may want to explore next steps with a wrongful termination lawyer. 

  •   You’ve been fired or laid off without any due cause
  •   You are overlooked for promotions and raises
  •   Your job assignments are unfair or exceedingly undesirable
  •   You’re told or overhear comments about your age

How Can You Prove Discrimination Based on Age?

Once you know that you have been discriminated against, proving it can be difficult. There may be other reasons that an employer gives for their mistreatment, but you know, deep down, that ageism is the real cause. 

Your next step should be finding out how you can support your claim. Below are a few common ways you may be able to prove age discrimination in court: 

  • Show that the company was hiring for your position while you were still employed, and demonstrate they filled the role with someone considerably younger than you
  • Prove that the company introduced policies that discriminated against workers over a certain age or favored workers in a specific age bracket
  • Provide evidence that younger employees received greater advantages and opportunities
  • Show that younger employees received significantly less harsh feedback or discipline than you
  • Prove that at the time of being fired or disciplined, your work performance was satisfactory
  • Provide witnesses who can attest to incidents of ageism in your workplace
  • File a report with your company’s human resources department or employer’s equivalent

The best way to prove age discrimination is to document as much as you possibly can. This includes emails, job listings, letters, workplace policies, and any other forms of communication that showcase discrimination. 

Although many signs of ageism are verbally expressed, you can create written documentation by filing reports at work. Doing so can prevent your employer from denying your complaints or claiming that you never had a problem with any workplace interactions. 

Witnesses are also helpful in age discrimination cases. If you have a trusted coworker or colleague, let them know about your concerns, and see if they will agree, in writing, to support your claims and describe what they have witnessed. 

There could also be other employees in the workplace who are victims of ageism. Speak to them, if you feel comfortable doing so, as the group could provide further evidence to support a legal claim.

What to Do if You Are a Victim of Ageism

If you suspect that you’ve been discriminated against because of your age, time is of the essence. The ADEA has a limit of 180 days to file a charge against an employer for age discrimination; federal employees have 45 days to reach out to an EEO counselor. 

Reach out to a qualified employment attorney who can help you explore your options. The sooner you seek legal counsel, the easier it becomes to gather strong evidence and pursue justice.

What Legal Protection Do I Have Against Workplace Age Discrimination?

The greatest legal protection workers over 40 have against ageism in the workplace is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). You may also be able to sue a company for age discrimination if you are younger in some situations. 

Every case has to be assessed on its own, and the facts must be evaluated in detail by an attorney. If you have been a victim of age discrimination in New Jersey, please contact Hamilton Law Firm to schedule a consultation.