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Elliot Felig & Associates

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Age Discrimination

Though it may not receive the headlines which surround other forms of discrimination, age discrimination is not just illegal, but also widespread in numerous professions.  Even though it is clearly unlawful, “age discrimination is everywhere” according to a recent article in Forbes magazine. In fact, age discrimination often plays a role both in the hiring process as well as in the process of workforce reduction.

“Some employers believe that older workers are not as nimble or as easy to train, while others worry that an older person is necessarily overqualified, and thus likely to bolt the minute a better job comes along,” according to one leading employment analyst. 

Age discrimination involves treating anyone, including both applicants and employees, less favorably because of his or her age.  The practice is forbidden by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which specifically states is unlawful to discriminate against people who are age 40 or older. It does not protect workers under the age of 40, although some states do have laws that protect younger workers from age discrimination.

The law against age discrimination applies to all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, compensation, the nature of one’s job assignment, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

It is also unlawful to engage in any form of harassment based on a person’s age.  Harassment has been defined to include offensive comments regarding an employee’s age, or other forms of conduct which result in a hostile or offensive work environment, or when the discrimination results in any form of adverse employment decision.

Here are some examples of age discrimination which are common:

-       A company engages in widespread layoffs, but a disproportionate number of those who are let go are over age 40

-       A person who has always received excellent performance reviews is laid off and replaced by a younger, less qualified person.

-       A fully competent and qualified person is passed over for promotion in favor of a younger and less qualified person.

-       A company makes certain kinds of training programs available only to younger employees.

-       A company indicates through its practices and statements that is seeking a more “youthful” image.

-       A company systematically excludes its older employees from important strategic activities.

In some jurisdictions, state or city laws also serve to extend additional protections and remedies to workers over a certain age.  For example, both New York State and New York City have enacted human rights laws which offer broader protection against age discrimination than the ADEA. 

It is extremely important that anyone who feels they may have been a victim of age discrimination to speak to a qualified attorney as soon as possible.  First, they may have a limited amount of time to file a claim.  Also, important documentation relating to their claim could get lost or destroyed.  Moreover, the employee should be certain to have an attorney inform them of their rights before they sign papers giving up those rights.

Our firm is available to help individuals who feel they may have been subjected to discrimination based on their age.  In far too many instances, individuals are laid off or refused promotion or benefits and effectively “pushed out” of their positions because companies are looking for a younger, cheaper, workforce.  Too often people who are subjected to that treatment are completely unaware of the legal remedies available to them, and in a sense of panic, sign away their rights by accepting severance agreements that are completely one-sided in favor of the employer who drafted it.  No one under any circumstances should sign away their rights without first speaking to an experienced attorney.  To see if we can help, contact us at 212-828-2770