Today, Pennsylvania employers need to worry about more than selling their product or service, profiting and building their business. They also need to ensure they are not committing employment law violations and have a viable defense if allegations of wrongdoing are made. While certain accusations related to sexual harassment and discrimination are more prominent than others in the current climate, others also happen frequently. With the changing template of how work is done, many people are saying they have been discriminated against because of their age.
Understanding age discrimination and what it entails
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) details what constitutes age discrimination and harassment. According to the EEOC, a person who was treated unfavorably when compared to a younger employee or prospective employee might have been discriminated against due to their age. With the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), people age 40 and above are shielded from age discrimination. People cannot be discriminated against based solely on their age when they are hired, terminated, paid, given assignments, promoted, laid off, trained, granted benefits or with any other area of employment.
It is also illegal to harass an employee due to their age. Negative comments about their age can rise to the level of harassment. People might take innocent teasing as a justification to file an age discrimination lawsuit. However, this generally does not qualify if it does not go beyond a certain level or is not ongoing and negatively impact the person’s job. Anyone can be accused of committing age discrimination and it could lead to a claim against the employer. This includes owners, supervisors, colleagues and even non-employees. Workplace policies must also adhere to the law and not extend to age discrimination.
When employers are said to have mistreated workers in any way, there is a natural reaction on the part of the public to take the worker’s side. This can not only lead to a negative perception of the employer and hinder its reputation, but it can damage it – perhaps beyond repair. If, for example, the job was one that required great physical strength that someone younger had and someone older did not, then their capabilities to do the job were the deciding factor. They were not discriminated against due to their age. If there is a job that mandates a person be up to date and ready to go from day one with new technology, then a younger person might be better qualified.
Strategies employers can use to avoid age discrimination
For employers, it is preferable to avoid these allegations altogether to have policies in place to prevent them. Research suggests there are ways to ensure that all workers are comfortable and less likely to lodge complaints about age discrimination if certain steps are taken. Some studies say that companies are better-served to train and keep older employees who have shown loyalty and competence than it is to hire younger people. It is, of course, inevitable that there will be differences in people who are in separate age ranges. Employers might want to try and have policies such as zero tolerance for even light teasing like the comment “Ok, Boomer” and references to a person’s status as a longtime employee. Striving for fairness and employment decisions based on the work a person does and can do rather than their age is also advisable. These recommendations can also be effective when recognizing when age discrimination has or has not taken place. That might be a key part of a defense.
When accused of age discrimination, employers must protect themselves
Employers have rights just as employees do. That includes forging a strong defense based on employment law to blunt the claim. For an effective defense, it is vital to have guidance that understands these cases from the perspective of the employer. From the outset, it is wise to have assistance to scrutinize the case and plan how to defend against the charges.