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How to recognize age discrimination in the workplace

The American workforce has many unique, diverse individuals. Workers come from all kinds of different backgrounds and have varying degrees of experience. Unfortunately, many workplaces discriminate against particularly young or old employees, which can be grounds for a lawsuit. 

All types of discrimination have protections under federal law. Ageism is a real issue, and you should be able to recognize the signs when it happens to you or one of your coworkers.

What to look for

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lays out some guidelines on what constitutes age discrimination in the workplace. These protections exist for employees who work for any business that has a minimum of 20 workers total. Missouri has its own state laws that expand upon the rights of older employees. The most basic form of harassment and discrimination involves making derogatory comments about a person based on his or her age or other protected classes. Additional types of discrimination include:

  • Asking about a candidate's age during the interview
  • Limiting the age of people who engage in the company's apprentice program
  • Denying benefits to younger or older individuals
  • Mentioning age preferences in the job description
  • Firing someone based on his or her age

Requiring to know someone's age before hiring him or her is a type of harassment. The court may also view it as a form of intimidation because some workers may not even want to apply for the job if they believe the boss will look upon them differently. 

How to fight it

It can be useful to go to the company's HR department first to file a complaint. A single joke in bad taste may have been a simple mistake and a matter the company wants to resolve in-house. However, in some cases, there may be no other option than to go to court to seek justice for not having a safe, caring work environment. 

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