How to Handle Age Discrimination at Work – 6 Useful Tips

According to statistics compiled by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), workplace age discrimination is a growing problem. In 2007, the EEOC documented over 19,000 cases – the highest number in a dozen years. In 2008, the number of age discrimination cases jumped again — by more than 5,500 — to 24,582. To help to identify and stop such discrimination at your workplace, here are 6 key tips:

1. Know the law.

Knowledge is power when it comes to defending your rights at work. The 1967 Age Discrimination and Employment Act made it illegal in the United States for employers to discriminate against employees ages 40 and above with respect to benefits, lay-offs, promotions, and hiring.

2. Identify and change patterns of bad behavior before they become a problem.

An older worker who labors in an environment dominated by mostly young people may naturally be segregated from the pack. Numerous group behavior studies have demonstrated that minorities organically become targets for harassment and discrimination. But if you assertively act to defend your rights and interests upfront, you may diffuse the situation. Challenge stereotypes. Don’t ignore jokes or mean comments about your age. Make it clear that colleagues who collude with harassment or discrimination are a substantial part of the problem. It’s not just the “workplace bully” who’s the problem — it’s the workplace bully AND his/her enablers.

3. Gather evidence of the discrimination.

Archive documents, e-mails, conversations, performance reviews and other evidence that might support your age discrimination claim. For instance, let’s say a supervisor forwarded you an e-mail that made veiled or even overt implications about how old people forget things. Print, time and date stamp, and archive that email as potential evidence.

4. Make a good faith effort to resolve the problem internally.

Your company’s human resources department or your immediate supervisor may be able to stop discrimination or harassment before it becomes a serious problem.

5. Don’t wait for the statute of limitations to elapse on a claim.

According to the 1967 Age Discrimination and Employment Act (referenced above) you must contact the EEOC within 180 days of an alleged violation. (That said, in some states, you may have up to 300 days to do so, depending on the circumstances.)

6. Consider retaining an attorney.

Employment law is a complicated field. You may not even be aware of the various resources available to you under the law. For a free, confidential, and comprehensive evaluation of your age discrimination or harassment situation, connect with the representatives here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum at www.jhllp.com. You may also call (212) 688-5640.