Age Discrimination and Harassment
When people think of employment discrimination, issues like sexual harassment or race discrimination often come to mind. Unfortunately, there is another, less publicized form of illegal conduct that affects many workplaces. This is discrimination on the basis of an employee’s age, which can take overt or highly subtle forms, and an employer should be held accountable for it. Workers who have observed this conduct should consult the Portland age discrimination lawyers at the Maine Employee Rights Group for advice on how to proceed. We have spent over 20 years evaluating these claims and helping individual employees protect their right to fair and equal treatment from others in the workplace.Age Discrimination Can Take Many Forms
There are many ways that age discrimination can arise at a job. Some of them consist of practices or trends that the employer either openly institutes or appears to furtively follow. For example, some companies might exhibit a pattern of terminating older employees first, perhaps because their seniority entitles them to higher salaries based on experience. One way in which this happens is when older employers are given poor performance reviews for inaccurate or arbitrary reasons and then laid off because of those reviews. Or a worker might not receive a merited promotion that a younger, less qualified worker does.
Age discrimination also can affect the hiring process. An employer might seem especially reluctant to hire new job applicants over a certain age, even if those applicants have equal or superior qualifications to younger applicants seeking the same position. The employer might cite seemingly legitimate business reasons for making that decision, but they might be using those reasons as a smokescreen for illegal conduct if the same trend recurs over a period of time.
Beyond those systemic patterns and practices of discrimination, older employees also can be affected by more direct forms of bias based on their age. In especially harsh cases, supervisors might try to force an employee into retirement or threaten to fire the employee if he or she does not retire. This conduct is clearly illegal, but so is constantly demanding that an employee state when he or she plans to retire, or even asking whether the employee plans to retire. Other overt statements of age discrimination might include telling an older worker that the employer wants a younger image or more youthful people in the company. Or they could take a more vague form, such as insinuations that someone lacks the right personality fit for a workplace once that person reaches a certain age.
Fortunately for employees who suffer from age discrimination, two sets of federal laws provide ways to assert their rights. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) makes it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of age against a worker who is more than 40 years old. Small employers with fewer than 20 workers are not subject to this law, but most other employers are. The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (OWBPA) extended the ADEA with an additional layer of protection against age discrimination. Limited to employment benefits, this law prohibits employers from reducing benefits based on age unless giving reduced benefits to older employees costs as much as giving benefits to younger employees.
Maine law also protects workers against age discrimination. The Maine Human Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of a person’s age no matter how old the person is. Prejudice against “Millenials” is treated the same as prejudice against “Baby Boomers.” If you feel you have been discriminated against on the basis of your age, an experienced employment discrimination lawyer can help you understand which federal and state laws apply to your claim and take steps toward securing the available remedies.Discuss Your Case With a Bangor Age Discrimination Lawyer
Even if you are not sure that you have a claim, it is worth sharing the specific details of your situation with someone who has the legal knowledge to advise you. At the Maine Employee Rights Group, our Portland age discrimination attorneys listen carefully to the stories that our clients tell us. We know that every case is different, and we treat our clients with human compassion as well as professional competence. This area of law can offer many challenges, such as proving that discrimination actually motivated an employer. Having an experienced lawyer on your side can make an immense difference in protecting your freedom from discrimination at your job. If you have encountered age discrimination in a Maine workplace, you should schedule an initial appointment with us by calling 207.874.0905 or completing our online form.