Because people in the United States are living longer, they are also working longer. That can sometimes cause friction between older workers and the employers who may slowly begin to see them as less useful than their younger counterparts. However, workers over the age of 40 have certain specific rights under the law that prevents them from being fired or experiencing other negative employment action solely due to their age. If you believe that you have experienced this type of discrimination, contacting an attorney can be a huge help.
Prohibited Under Federal and State Law
The major federal law governing age discrimination is the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). It was passed in 1967 to help place older and younger workers on the same level playing field with regard to job opportunities, salaries and benefits. The ADEA has three major aims: to prevent arbitrary age discrimination, to promote the employment of workers over 40, and to help both employer and employee contend with any issues due to age while employed. Both sides of the employment equation have rights and responsibilities.
In addition to the ADEA, South Carolina’s Human Affairs Law also covers age discrimination, prohibiting discriminatory treatment from hiring to firing. Both laws protect the rights over workers over 40 years of age; those under that age are, in theory, adequately covered by other legislation. It is important to be aware that it is not illegal under either state or federal law to favor an older worker over a younger one—this is true even if both workers are over age 40.
Harassment and Exceptions
While it is unlawful to fire or otherwise take negative action against an employee solely due to their age, it is worth noting that it is also against the law for co-workers or supervisors to engage in a pattern of harassment based on age. It can sometimes be difficult to determine whether a conscious pattern of harassment is happening, given that mere jokes or teasing do not rise to the level of seriousness that is needed to actually file a charge. That said, if the harassment does qualify as a hostile work environment, you may have a case.
One thing to also keep in mind is that unlike with most antidiscrimination laws, the ADEA has an exception which allows a measure of discrimination when it falls under the aegis of a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). A BFOQ is when an ordinarily protected characteristic (such as age) can be used as a justifiable reason to discriminate against an applicant or employee. For example, age is often used as a BFOQ for airline pilots or other jobs where safety is paramount and an older employee might conceivably have slower reaction times.
Contact A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney
Discrimination against workers over 40 over is unacceptable. Older workers can be just as effective and useful as their younger counterparts, but too often an employer will seek to jettison them just to let their company appear younger. If you believe this is happening to you, know that you do have rights. Enlisting a South Carolina employment discrimination attorney from the firm of Hitchcock & Potts can be the first step toward ensuring your rights are protected. Attorney A. Christopher Potts is ready and willing to assist you. Contact the office today to schedule a consultation.