Youth Workers and Age Discrimination: What to Know

If you’re worried about how you’re going to be treated on the job, one of the concerns you have may be about your age. Age discrimination certainly is a problem in the United States, particularly for those age 40 and older.

Age-based harassment laws address the negative treatment of workers who are 40 years of age, but they don’t necessarily protect those under 40. If you’re under 40, there are still a few things you should be aware of involving federal laws and age discrimination.

Can an Employer Ask for Your Age?

Employers are legally able to ask for your date of birth, but normally, employers will only do this when it’s necessary for a reason to do so. For instance, some states do not allow anyone under 21 to serve or handle alcohol, so it would make sense to hire servers only over the age of 21. Federal law does not protect those under 40 against age discrimination, and it likely wouldn’t be considered discrimination if the reason a person wasn’t hired was due to an inability to perform all work-related tasks.

Can Employers Assign Jobs Based on Age?

No, they can’t. No matter what age a worker is, the employer can’t give him or her harder or easier tasks based on perceived age. For instance, a manager can’t give lifting jobs to youth workers but assign older workers to perform desk tasks only due to age concerns.

Can I Report Age Discrimination Despite Being Under the Age of 40?

You have a right to report any time you’re discriminated against, but it’s unlikely to fall under age discrimination laws. Harassment and discrimination based on race, gender, sex and other factors do still protect you and could give you an opportunity to file a claim.

If you choose to file a claim, remember that your employer has no right to punish you for reporting your concerns. Retaliation is against the law and could give you another opportunity to file a lawsuit or complaint against your employer.

It is not always easy to be a young person in the workforce, but there are laws that pertain to you and support a healthy work environment. You have a right to stand up for yourself and to know these laws, so you can protect yourself and others whom you work with. If you do see age discrimination of older workers, you are allowed to report that as well.