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Age discrimination is common: Know your rights

Older Americans know all too well that there are certain prejudices against older people. Older people are stereotyped and discriminated against, and old age itself is stigmatized in our youth-obsessed culture. The umbrella term for these attitudes and behaviors is called ageism.

Ageism can be especially harmful when it leads to discrimination in the workplace. It can be demeaning to be told you are "too old" to perform a certain job, or to be let go because an employer wants to avoid pension or healthcare costs. Not to mention that these practices are grossly unfair. Unfortunately, such discrimination is widespread today.

What can older workers do if they believe they are victims of age discrimination? Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee because of his or her age.

Employees should be familiar with the specific protections and stipulations under this law, which include:

  • Employees and job applicants over the age of 40 are protected under this law
  • The law applies to employers with 20 or more employees

A claim can be pursued if a worker meets these two conditions and believes they were adversely affected because of their age. Ageism claims often stem from termination, retaliation, harassment or other action that has led to a hostile work environment.

You will have to prove that age discrimination was the motivating factor for your treatment. This can be a difficult burden to meet. But, although these claims are difficult to prove, plaintiffs can win these cases if they are properly investigated and the right evidence is presented.

Direct and circumstantial evidence can be used. If you feel you have been discriminated against by a current, prospective, or past employer based on your age, you should consult with an experienced attorney to better understand your options.

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