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Spotting Age Discrimination Can Be Difficult

Companies in the United States have been working to “get younger” to remain relevant in an age where markets and technologies evolve very quickly. However, too often, this means that older workers are subjected to unequal or unfair treatment in favor of younger employees. If you’re a worker who has been discriminated against due to your age, you do have options to pursue compensation. However, spotting age discrimination can be difficult, so it’s important to know what conduct rises to the level of discrimination.

A Subtle Form Of Discrimination

Age is one of the protected characteristics against which it is illegal to discriminate. Both the South Carolina Human Affairs Law (HAL) and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) bar any discrimination based on age, at any point in the employment process. It’s important to keep in mind that it only protects workers over the age of 40 and doesn’t give any coverage to those under that age. Unlike the majority of other anti-discrimination laws, the ADEA in particular does not prohibit “reverse” discrimination (favoring older workers over younger workers, in this case).
Age discrimination in the workplace can be particularly difficult to spot because it’s often framed as making decisions for the welfare of the company, particularly if many workers are demoted or terminated at once. Given the push to stay relevant, particularly in front-facing industries, employers may choose to cloak a pattern of age discrimination in corporate speak, characterizing terminations as “reorganization” or a “personnel shake-up.” However, employers’ decisions must be shown to have a legitimate, non-discriminatory purpose, and so often, one simply does not exist.

Filing A Claim

Filing a claim of age discrimination follows a very similar procedure to filing any other type of charge under state or federal employment law. The first step is to make a complaint to either the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (HAC) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) laying out the nature of the conduct in question. The agency will investigate and attempt to mediate, but if this is unsuccessful, you will then be granted what is known as a right-to-sue letter, allowing you to pursue the matter in court.
One important point to keep in mind before you file, however, is that sometimes, an employer may have a legal justification for acting against older workers. This is referred to as a bona fide occupational qualification, and it applies when discriminating is “reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the particular business.” For example, a job posting seeking models for a fashion house that sells only women’s clothing could conceivably specify that no male occupants would be accepted, because the business’s products are not designed to be worn by traditional male body types.

Contact A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney

Spotting age discrimination can be difficult, but there’s no question that being the unceremonious victim of negative employment action through no fault of your own can be devastating. Working with a South Carolina employment discrimination attorney can help you make sense of your situation. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and the firm of Hitchcock & Potts is ready to assist you with your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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