How To Fight Age Discrimination in the Workplace

By | June 24, 2011

While we all almost universally acknowledge the negative role of discrimination in the workplace, we don’t always admit that discrimination comes in all shapes and sizes. Discrimination is discrimination, no matter how that discrimination takes place. This is a bad thing. Why? Because some people feel victimized without feeling like they have the right to call themselves a victim of discrimination.

There is perhaps no place where this is more prevalent than in the arena of age discrimination, a legitimate “beef” that many people have – whether young or old – that can be hard to define. That’s why this article is here: to clear the fog about this concept and finally bring about some clarity so that you aren’t only able to define age discrimination, but that you’re able to fight it.

If you can read this article and add a few tools to your arsenal for fighting discrimination – legal tools, of course – then this article will have accomplished its mission. So let’s get started and learn all about how age discrimination can be successfully fought.

Age Discrimination: When It’s Happening

One problem many people have with discrimination in today’s day and age is that they have no idea what the best way is to react to being victimized. The laws seem too murky, the lines too blurred.  It doesn’t have to be this way, of course, but that means you will have to arm yourself with some knowledge about age discrimination and find out what it really means when it’s happening in the workplace.

How can you identify age discrimination? Is it a simple matter of “knowing it when you see it?” Well, the truth is a little more complicated than that, but you shouldn’t discount your own instincts. If something tells you that you or someone around you is being discriminated against due to their age, then that alarm bell or “spidey-sense” should be enough to warrant action.

Keep in mind, however, that we’re not talking about legal action just yet. Instead, you’ll want to be able to confirm that age discrimination is taking place. We suggest that you familiarize yourself with the laws of your state and then start asking yourself some serious questions, including:

  • When did you first start feeling discriminated against? It’s important to establish a clear timeline of events (as you’ll see later in this article), not only for your own sake, but so that you will be able to show how long and deep-set these discriminatory behaviors have been taking place. There’s also a chance that you’ll realize you were discriminated against even earlier than when you initially thought it first began.
  • Who’s playing a role in the discrimination? Is the owner of the company involved, or just your direct supervisor? Is there a culture of discrimination at your workplace or simply one or two “bad apples” who have made your life uncomfortable? These questions will be crucial to understanding how to proceed with the next steps.
  • How did the discrimination take place? Is it easy to identify the discrimination, or do you feel that the discrimination against you is actually more subtle than you’d like to admit? Don’t be afraid to be honest to yourself, because if you don’t have a case, then you’ve saved yourself a lot of legal hassle by finding out you don’t have a case now instead of later.

Once you have an answer to these questions – and you feel that discrimination is indeed taking place – you’re ready to move on to more proactive action steps.

Steps to Take to Fight Age Discrimination

Age discrimination can be a fickle thing – it can be easy for someone to dismiss your claims by simply saying that you don’t have enough experience or that you’re too overqualified. But when age discrimination is happening, you need to be ready to tackle it head-on if you want a sense of justice in your life. So let’s take a look at the tools you can use to start fighting back smartly.

First, you’ll want to keep track of all interactions that you think fall under the umbrella of being “discriminatory.” Don’t record everything that happens at your job, but record dates, occurrences and names of people so that you can establish a timeline of discrimination. In he-said, she-said cases, this can help establish your credibility as well as help witnesses corroborate your story. Be truthful when you do this, because otherwise you could defeat your own case before it begins.

Second, look into the types of discrimination that are happening to you and try to find out how legitimate your complaints are. If you’ve been recording events that are indeed discriminatory, it will be time to seek out a lawyer for legal advice and the possibility of filing a lawsuit. Consult with this lawyer as to whether or not you have a case, and continue to record any discriminatory behavior that happens at work. Generally, it’s best to keep your activities under wraps – don’t let it “get out” that you may file a lawsuit in the hope that the people in charge will be intimidated. It can have negative side effects.

Next, when you file that lawsuit, makes sure that you’re ready to make the commitment of said suit. Why? Because lawsuits can be messy ordeals, especially in discrimination cases that can be hard to pinpoint. You might be looking for a settlement right away, but be prepared for the long haul if necessary – at the very least your preparedness can help build a strong case in which a settlement can be reached out of court. If this is too much for you, then there’s a good chance you’re not ready to handle a full lawsuit.

At this point, you’ll want to make sure that you’re ready to “pull the trigger,” and of course not in the literal sense. Remember what a big impact this decision can have on your career – and then trust yourself and your instincts. You might be surprised what one person can accomplish when they seek real justice.

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