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What should I know about age discrimination?

Under the law, Iowans are granted certain protections against workplace discrimination. This includes being discriminated against when seeking a job or already on the job. One category of discrimination that is not as prominent a topic today, but is still important to address, is age discrimination. Workers in Iowa should understand what age discrimination is and what it entails.

If an applicant or an employee is treated less favorably that other employees due to his or her age, it is age discrimination. Based on the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), it is forbidden under the law for people who are 40 or older to be discriminated against because of their age. If an older worker is favored over a younger worker -- even if both workers are older than 40 -- it is not a legal violation. There can be discrimination if both the victim and the alleged perpetrator are older than 40.

When a person is hired, fired, paid, given job assignments, promoted, laid off, trained, given benefits or there are any other factors in employment, there cannot be age discrimination. Harassment can be linked to a person's age and is illegal. Making derogatory or offensive statements or remarks about a person's age can be considered age-related discrimination. This can be confusing because lighthearted teasing, a rare comment or an isolated incident that is not deemed serious might not meet the threshold to be considered age discrimination.

The harassment must be of sufficient severity that it creates a negative work environment or an adverse work decision like the employee being dismissed or subject to a demotion. Anyone from the supervisor to a co-worker to a person who is not even an employee can commit harassment due to a person's age. Employment policies or practices that are applied to all workers can also be deemed illegal if it negatively impacts workers or applicants who are older than 40 and is not considered a reasonable factor.

Age discrimination unfortunately occurs, and people might not realize it is happening or know they have rights to put a stop to it. When there is a believe that age discrimination and harassment has taken place, the victim has the right to seek compensation in a legal filing. A lawyer who is experienced in all areas of workplace discrimination can help.

Source: eeoc.gov, "Age Discrimination," accessed on Feb. 20, 2018

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