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Age Discrimination in the Workplace: Real Examples and Cases in 2023

Age Discrimination in the Workplace: Real Examples and Cases in 2023

When a hard-working individual approaches their mid-50s or mid-60s, they should be at the top of their career game.  A work ethic honed over many years, a wealth of knowledge grounded in real-world encounters, and skills gained from differing positions and training exercises should serve them well.  The foundation should be there for career advancement, higher pay, good benefits, maybe a pension.

Unfortunately, age discrimination means that all of these impressive qualifications can be overlooked or even held against an employee.  Companies, government agencies, and supervisors who prefer recent graduates or their own assumptions about who can be “technologically savvy” may be to blame.

Examples from the Federal and New York Governments’ Advice to Companies and Courts

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission helps enforce the age discrimination laws.  It gives some examples of conduct by an employer or supervisor that may qualify as discrimination on basis of age:

  • Denying older workers promotions or beneficial transfers because of age
  • Laying off older workers or rehiring more younger workers than older ones after a mass layoff
  • Subjecting an older worker to harassing comments or actions because of their age
  • Including age preferences or specifications in job advertisements
  • Having an apprenticeship limited to the young unless a specific exception to the law applies
  • Reducing benefits to older workers except under limited circumstances where the greater cost of providing such benefits to an older worker may justify such conduct
  • Paying workers over the age of 40 less for some reason not based on the position, title, or qualifications
  • Segregating workers or limiting their duties or opportunities based on age

The EEOC recognizes that age discrimination may be more subtle and employees may not have evidence of one of the more obvious practices like one of the above.  It tries to protect victims of such non-transparent age discrimination by providing guidance to employers and to courts that an employee may claim to be discriminated against on the basis of age even when she or he has no definite proof that age was the only reason for an employer’s decision, and even if it may appear before any of the employer’s records are reviewed or any supervisors are interviewed that discrimination was not a likely explanation for whatever took place.  Economic research also suggests that age discrimination may affect women at younger ages, with some employers and supervisors apparently expressing a preference for younger women over older women or even older men. 

Cases About Age Discrimination

Cases about age discrimination have been filed against professional offices, law enforcement departments, city and state agencies, airlines, hotels, restaurants, and many other employers. 

For example, the New York office of the EEOC filed a case involving a dance instructor who was selected as a finalist for a professorship, but then the college widened its search to “include a less qualified, 37-year-old applicant as a fourth finalist because it considered [the 37-year-old to be ‘at the right moment of her life for commitment to a full-time position.’” 

In another case, the New York City Human Rights Commission brought a case involving an older female worker who was transferred to a position that the employer knew would soon be cut, so the employer could get rid of her.

Workers do not have to be alone in challenging age discrimination.  It may be possible for all workers who suffered from a pattern of discrimination to band together in a class action to bring together common proof against the same employer.  For example, Google once settled a case involving more than 200 people who alleged that it discriminated against applicants over the age of 40, possibly using such euphemisms as not being a good “fit.”

Next Steps

If you have reason to suspect that a you have not been hired because of your age, or that you were let go or passed over promotion for a similar reason, you may benefit from a free consultation on the topic of age discrimination.

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