Age discrimination in the workplace or even before getting hired is an ongoing problem for people in New York and throughout the United States, and unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to prove age discrimination in court. In 2009, a ruling by the Supreme Court found that age had to be the primary reason a person was laid off rather than a contributing factor before legal action could be taken against the employer for age discrimination. A proposed bill to reverse the decision never made it to a Congressional vote.
However, road blocks to taking age discrimination as seriously as other types of discrimination have been in place for some time. For example, the protection of the Civil Rights Act was never expanded to include older workers.
There are also many subtle ways in which age discrimination might play out. Job ads use language such as “digital native” to describe and attract younger workers without openly mentioning age. One firefighter won a case in California after he alleged his employer was transferring older workers to out-of-the way posts in hopes the difficult commute would fatigue them and make them decide to retire. Companies might also offer workers severance packages that require employees to relinquish their rights to file a lawsuit. When those workers take the package and go on to seek another job, they may find themselves struggling to get hired. Women over 50 may be hit particularly hard.
Despite these difficulties, a person who has faced age discrimination might want to speak to an attorney about their employee rights. Workers have won similar lawsuits, and with the situation in need of reform, a legal response might even result in setting a new precedent and getting broader protection for older workers. Documenting all evidence of age discrimination as it happens may be an important element of building a case, and people should record and date any incidents.