The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects employees who are age 40 or older from age discrimination and harassment from their employers. This federal law does not protect employees under age 40, but fortunately, Minnesota does have laws that protect these workers as well. The Minnesota Human Rights Act prohibits employers from using age as a basis for refusing to hire you, discriminating against you, or firing you if you – as long as you are 18 years old or older. This means that employers are equally prohibited from using age as a factor in the hiring decision when evaluating a 22-year-old or a 60-year-old candidate.
Even though Minnesota has gone above and beyond to try to prevent age discrimination, unfortunately, employees continue to find themselves subjected to age bias in a variety of workplace contexts. Here are seven examples of how and where employees may be discriminated against or harassed because of their age.
1. Age bias outside of tech
The tech industry has been stereotyped as work for younger generations, and sure enough, we have seen numerous examples of tech companies or tech jobs being filled by younger workers while older workers are baselessly pushed out. This kind of age bias, however, is by no means limited to the tech industry or IT jobs. Layoffs and downsizing continue to impact older, long-tenured employees at high rates and new management often finds problems with older employees who have successfully performed their jobs for years. Age discrimination occurs across the American workplace, regardless of industry.
2. Age discrimination in nonprofits
While there are great nonprofits to work for, just because an organization has a good mission doesn’t mean it is going to be a good place to work. Nonprofit organizations are subject to the same employment laws as everyone else, and we see them run afoul of these laws all the time; age discrimination is no exception.
3. Age discrimination by older employees
It’s not just the young managers who engage in age bias; older ones do too. Employers and their counsel, seemingly unaware of this, love to point to the age of the decision maker – who was as old or older than the terminated or passed over employee – to claim that age didn’t play a role in the decision. This excuse is no excuse: under Minnesota law, age can play no factor in a material employment decision, no matter who the decision maker is or how old they are.
4. Age discrimination in healthcare
Healthcare professionals can have long, successful careers. Other healthcare professionals come into the field as their second career or adjust the focus of their practice after years in the field. Regardless of the reason, healthcare professionals often continue to work late into their lives and often continue to perform well. Whenever you have older employees in the workplace, like in healthcare, eventually and unfortunately age bias has a tendency to sneak in.
5. Age bias against younger workers
The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits age discrimination against employees who are 40 years or older. The Minnesota Human Rights Act, on the other hand, protects all Minnesota employees from age discrimination, regardless of age. In other words, in Minnesota, it is against the law to use age as a factor in employment decisions for any aged worker. This means that it violates the law to hire applicants because they are older.
6. Age bias during the hiring process
Workers are protected against discrimination during every phase of employment, including during the hiring process. Employers may not discriminate against older job applicants by assuming that they lack the necessary skills, are not tech-savvy, or won’t fit in with younger coworkers. Conversely, some employers prefer older employees and overlook younger applicants because they feel they will be less “worldly” or “seasoned.” If both candidates have similar qualifications, employers cannot decide who to hire based on age. Unfortunately, some employers will attempt to pass off their discrimination as genuine concerns about the applicant’s qualifications.
7. Passing employees up for promotions and bonuses
Age discrimination often becomes clear when employees are competing to receive promotions and bonuses. Older workers may be passed over for promotions in favor of younger, less experienced employees who are perceived as having more potential. Companies sometimes choose not to promote older employees because they will presumably be considering retirement sooner than the younger team members.
When performance bonuses are distributed, some employers will justify not giving these bonuses to certain team members based on their age. However, age alone does not affect performance, so your employer should be able to articulate clear performance issues if they choose not to give you a bonus or promote another employee for an open position.
How To Deal With Age Discrimination In The Workplace
Workers face ageism in a variety of ways, and this list of examples of ageism in the workplace is not exhaustive by any means. At Schaefer Halleen, we have seen seemingly well-intentioned employers making illegal age-biased decisions for years. If you believe your employer has subjected you to this prohibited conduct, please contact us, as we are well-versed in advocating for employees subjected to age discrimination in Minnesota and we would be happy to discuss the issue with you.