Age Discrimination in the Workplace
If you are over age forty, you are considered a protected class within the workplace. Have you been passed over for promotion regardless of having more experience and better qualifications? Were you laid off from your job to make room for a younger employee to take over? This could be due to age discrimination, which is illegal.
Discriminating against employees age forty and over is against the law. If you feel that your employer has based employment decisions on age, you may be entitled to compensation. The best way to understand your rights is to contact a knowledgeable employment attorney to see where you stand.
What is Age Discrimination?
To put it simply, an employer cannot fire, refuse to hire, or in any other way discriminate against an employee because of the employee’s age. Cases of age discrimination are not limited to hiring and firing. It also includes:
- Failure to promote
- Compensation and benefits (including discriminatory severance packages)
Most cases of age discrimination involve the promotion of a significantly younger, less experienced employee. Some cases involve an employer’s desire for a more youthful image and therefore deliberately fail to hire older workers.
If you can prove that your employer refuses to invest resources, such as further training or advancement, on the basis of age, this is also a form of age discrimination. While there are many ways that age discrimination can take place, it can be difficult to prove without the help of an experienced attorney.
Proving Age Discrimination
In age discrimination cases, the discriminatory act must be intentional. This means you cannot simply prove that the termination was wrongful – you must be able to successfully prove that the employer’s actions were based solely on your age and nothing else.
Generally, there are four basic criteria that you must prove:
- Show that you are age forty or more;
- You are qualified to perform the job and all tasks associated with the job;
- Adverse (discriminatory) action was taken against you;
- The person who replaced you is substantially younger and was treated differently.
Once you have provided evidence to fit these criteria, the employer will have a chance to offer a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for their actions.
For example, perhaps they have verified records of your poor performance on the job. If the employer can successfully prove that they based their decision regarding your employment on a reasonable factor other than age, they will not be held liable for age discrimination.
Age discrimination cases do not have the same level of scrutiny as other discrimination cases because there are occasions where age can affect job performance. Therefore, you must have proper evidence of your employer’s intent to discriminate based solely on age.
Rarely, claims for harassment due to age have been filed and been successful. But it is important to note that age harassment must be severe, frequent, and create a hostile work environment to be actionable. These cases are not common, but if the discrimination is blatant, you may have a cause for filing suit.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act
Unlike a number of other discrimination actions that can occur in an employment situation, such as race, gender, sex and national origin, age discrimination is not included under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Instead, age discrimination is protected on the federal level under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), enacted in 1967. The ADEA was enacted in an effort to prevent employers from choosing employees based upon their age, and instead to focus on their abilities.
Any age discrimination claims filed as a violation of the ADEA will be investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which oversees all federal workplace discrimination claims.
In order to file a claim for age discrimination with the EEOC, your employer must have at least twenty or more employees.
Pennsylvania Human Relations Act
Workers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are not only protected from age discrimination under federal law. At the state level, employees are protected from discrimination under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), which is governed by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC).
If you feel you have been a victim of age discrimination in the workplace but your employer does not have twenty or more employees, you still have the opportunity to file a claim a the state level through the PHRC.
In order to file a claim for age discrimination with the PHRC, your employer must have four or more employees.
Where to File Your Claim: EEOC or PHRC?
If you have been a victim of age discrimination, it is important to understand your rights and the process that you will go through should you decide to file a claim.
If your employer has twenty or more employees, you have the option of filing a claim at either the federal level with the EEOC, or the state level with the PHRC. If your employer is small and has only four or more employees, you will need to file your claim at the state level with the PHRC.
In either case, you have only up to 180 days from the date of the discrimination incident to file your claim. In fact, before you are able to file any type of discrimination lawsuit, you must first file your claim with the EEOC or the PHRC. Once your claim has been filed, you will have an investigator assigned to your case and they will determine if you have a cause of action.
Pittsburgh Age Discrimination Attorneys
Occasionally, the discrimination is so severe that the agency itself will file a lawsuit on your behalf and will work with you directly. If they do not choose to do so, you will receive a notification of a “right to sue” and you can determine how you would like to proceed.
If you receive a “right to sue” from the EEOC, you have up to 90 days to file your claim in court. If you receive your “right to sue” from the PHRC, you have up to two years to file your claim in court.
Determining where to file your claim and staying ahead of the short deadlines for filing can be confusing and overwhelming. Having the help of a knowledgeable and experienced employment discrimination attorney is invaluable.