You’re lucky—or in denial—if you’ve never felt slighted, excluded, or dumped on at work because you’re old; if you’ve never felt blocked from promotion or unofficially demoted because you’re old; if you have never been laid off because you’re old. In a recent AARP survey, 34 percent of respondents reported that they or someone they knew had been discriminated against at work because of age during the four years prior. But how many of the 34 percent do something about it? And what can you do?
Luckily, Bankrate.com has done the homework.
First the bad news: Proving age discrimination when you’re let go is much harder than proving discrimination on the basis of race or gender. That’s partly because of a 2009 Supreme Court ruling that said your employer doesn’t have to show it would have taken action regardless of age, even when you have evidence that age was a motivating factor. In fact, it’s now on you to prove that age was the only motivating factor.
Now the good news: In March, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that if a layoff looks neutral, but its impact isn’t, it might be discriminatory. In other words, it’s only “facially neutral.”
Not ready to suck it up? Here’s a quick tour of Bankrate’s step-by-step.
- If your boss’s pattern of layoffs hits highly paid workers who are also older, he may have been discriminatory even though it’s “facially neutral.” You have to then prove that most of the people laid off by this employer are older. That means gathering evidence. LinkedIn could be your best friend.
- With your evidence, file a charge of age discrimination with the EEOC. It could take a couple of years for agency to investigate. You don’t need a lawyer to file.
- If the EEOC says there may have been discrimination, you’ll need to find a lawyer, and you will probably have to pay a retainer upfront.
- If the EEOC says there was no discrimination, you can still sue the employer, as long as you didn’t sign a severance agreement. Again, that’s an upfront lump sum to the attorney.
- If you can’t or don’t want to pay a lawyer hundreds of dollars per hour for a return that could be two years or more coming, you can try free mediation courtesy of the EEOC. Employers generally accept the invitation to mediate because it’s cheaper than going to court.
Have you experienced age discrimination at work? Please share your story in the comments box below.