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What is age discrimination in the workplace?

Michigan workers who are over the age of 40 are protected against age discrimination under federal law. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects workers who are 40 and older but does not provide protection to those under the age of 40.

An age discrimination claim may arise even when both the person who was discriminated against as well as the perpetrator of the discrimination are both over 40. Employers are conversely not forbidden from favoring older workers over younger ones.

The discrimination prohibitions extend to all aspects of employment, including hiring, interviewing, promotions, lay-offs, firing, bonuses and the provision of benefits. Additionally, it is illegal for a person to be harassed at work due to his or her age. Harassment is forbidden when it rises to such a level that the victim is faced with a hostile work environment as a result. When an employer has policies in place, a policy that applies to all workers can be discriminatory if it results in disparate treatment of older workers in its application.

When people believe they have suffered from age discrimination in the workplace, they may consider filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Upon filing the complaint, the agency will assign an investigator to the claim. If the EEOC chooses to pursue the claim, the EEOC will prosecute the case. Even if the EEOC chooses not to pursue the case, the person who was discriminated against may file a case in court following the EEOC's investigation. Both the state as well as the EEOC have tight statutory time limits on filing workplace discrimination complaints. People may benefit by seeking the help of an employment law attorney as soon as they have experienced the discriminatory action in order to preserve their rights to seek compensation for the wrongdoing.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Age Discrimination", November 30, 2014

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