Sometimes employers treat older workers differently from younger workers. This may be because of a belief that older workers are less capable than younger workers or do not offer as much value.
A federal law called the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects workers over the age of 40 from discriminatory treatment. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, age discrimination against older workers is illegal even if the employer is also over the age of 40.
Harassment is a type of discrimination that consists of persistent derogatory comments about a protected status; in this case, a person’s age. The ADEA protects workers over 40 from a hostile work environment resulting from harassment regardless of whether the offensive treatment comes from supervisors, co-workers or clients.
Under the ADEA, employers cannot discriminate against workers over 40 due to age. This includes onboarding matters such as hiring and training as well as severance matters such as firing or laying off employees. An employer also cannot pay older workers less or offer fewer benefits compared to what other employees receive. Employers cannot make job assignments based on age or refuse to promote an otherwise qualified employee because he or she is over 40.
It is possible that people younger than 40 may experience discrimination in the workplace based on age. However, there is no federal law that protects against this. Some states have laws in place that protect younger workers from age discrimination, but California’s state law is similar to the ADEA in that it only applies to people over the age of 40.