There are some professions where youth is considered an advantage, while others value seniority and experience. Either way, the potential is unfortunately there for workers to be discriminated against because of their age (either being too old or too young). If you believe that you have experienced unfair treatment because of your age, you may have a cause of action against your employer for discrimination. However, not everyone can file suit based on age discrimination. Only certain situations qualify.
Similar Federal & State Law
The primary law governing age discrimination in the U.S. is the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The South Carolina Human Affairs Law (HAL) regulates antidiscrimination policies in the state of South Carolina, but much of the law tends to be a near-exact copy of federal antidiscrimination regulations. In terms of age discrimination, the HAL explicitly states that no part of its law can be taken to create a cause of action that does not already exist under the ADEA.
The ADEA governs both discrimination and general harassment that is allegedly perpetrated on the basis of age. It applies to private employers with at least 20 employees as well as most public entities. It prohibits discrimination in any stage of employment from hiring to firing. It also mandates certain behavior for employers. For example, the ADEA prohibits job notices or ads from containing any kind of qualification relating to age, unless one or two very rare exceptions apply.
Exceptions To The Rule
If you suspect that you have been discriminated against based on age, be aware that you have more protections as an older worker than you do as a younger one. The ADEA only covers workers over the age of 40 (as does the HAL). While some states have laws that protect younger workers against discrimination, South Carolina is not currently one of them. In addition, if an older worker over 40 is favored over a younger worker who is also over 40, this is generally allowed to stand.
One factor to be aware of, regardless of your age, is that in rare situations, age can be used as a reason to approve or deny an employment request. In those cases, age must be what is called a “bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOQ). In some professions, being young may actually be necessary to perform the duties of one’s position appropriately, while being over a certain age may impede job performance. Common examples of professions where age may be a BFOQ are the airline industry (being a pilot requires sharp reflexes and an ability to quickly adapt), or the fashion industry (being a model often requires a thin, fit figure, which older people may lack).
Contact A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney
If you are discriminated against on the basis of your age, it can feel like you are being devalued. Your work has value, and you have the right to ensure you are treated appropriately on the job. Attorney A. Christopher Potts is ready and willing to assist you with your case. Contact the firm of Hitchcock & Potts today to schedule a consultation.