Age Discrimination: The Type of Discrimination Everyone Could Face

If you remain in the workforce long enough, you could be subjected to discrimination based on your age.

Federal and New Mexico anti-discrimination laws provide many protections for workers in the state. They range from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and other, similar employment laws.

These laws have broad applicability, but some of the protected classifications, such as race, national origin or sex are immutable. This may lead some people to believe they could never be subjected to some forms of discrimination.

But one type of discrimination that anyone could be subjected to, assuming they live long enough, is age discrimination. The federal law, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects workers at any employer with more than 20 employees.

The ADEA has now been law long enough that those who were infants when it was enacted are old enough to now fall within the scope of the act.

The core of the ADEA requires that employers are not permitted to hire or fire employees due to age, nor are they allowed to pay older workers less due to their age or allow age to affect any other of their conditions or privileges of employment.

What evidence demonstrates age discrimination?

To win a case invoking age discrimination, you have to show that an employer violated one of the prohibitions of the act because of your age. For those who have been discriminated against, one difficulty is that in the sixty years the ADEA has been in place, many employers have learned to avoid creating direct evidence of age discrimination.

At one time, some employers may have made statements in a document that they wanted to eliminate a specific group of employees, such as those over age 40 or who are “too old and not aggressive enough.”

Courts have indicated that a “stray remark” alone is not evidence of discrimination and that evidence must be more substantial. One difficulty is that courts are more prone to describe what is not evidence of discrimination, rather than provide what is prospectively suggestive of actual discrimination.

Disparate impact

Because many employers have learned to avoid blatant discriminatory statements, but nonetheless continue to discriminate, employees often have to resort to other methods to prove their case. This means many ADEA cases involve indirect evidence and rely on the concept of “disparate impact,” where older workers may show that an employment practice unfairly or disproportionately affects them adversely.

Complex cases

With the federal and state laws, combined with the regulations from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau and numerous federal and state cases interpreting all of this material can make it difficult to know how to proceed with a case of age discrimination for the average worker. In addition, there may be time limits on when you can bring a claim and if you delay too long, you may be stopped from filing any claim.

If you believe you have been subjected to this type of discrimination, speaking with an experienced attorney can help you determine the validity of your potential case. They can ask you about the specific facts of your situation and explain the types of proof necessary for a successful case.