Age discrimination occurs when an employer bases an employment decision on your age rather than on your performance on the job or on your qualifications to do a job. Both federal and New York State law prohibit age discrimination by employers, but New York offers protection to a broader range of employees than federal law.
Federal law protects many workers over 40 years old from employment discrimination based on their age. If you work (or apply to work) for a company that employs more than 20 people, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits your employer from basing hiring, firing, promotion, benefit, layoff, compensation, training and job assignment decisions on the fact that you are over 40 unless age is a genuine qualification for your particular position. Also under federal law, a company may discriminate against a worker under 40 in favor of a worker over 40.
The New York State and New York City human rights laws offer more protection from age discrimination than ADEA. If you work (or apply to work) for a business employing more than four people, New York law prohibits the employer from discriminating on the basis of age in hiring, firing, promotion, benefit, layoff, compensation, training and job assignment decisions, unless age is a genuine qualification for the particular position.
How do I know if I’m a victim of age discrimination?
- Your company is downsizing, but all or most of the employees being laid off are “older.”
- You have always received stellar reviews and then are laid off and replaced with a much younger, less experienced person.
- You are passed over for a promotion in favor of a less qualified, but younger worker.
- Your employer does not permit older workers to take training programs or otherwise promote their growth.
- Prior to being terminated, you hear managers talking about going for a youthful image, or other subtle comments about discriminating based on age, all the way to blatantly disparaging workers based on age.
- You apply for a position and hear that you were not hired because you “look” too old.
- Valuable accounts or clients are being steered to younger workers.
- You are kept out of strategic meetings in favor of younger workers.
I think I’m a victim of age discrimination:
- Act quickly—there is a limited amount of time for you to take legal action.
- If you were fired and received severance, check the severance agreement to make sure you didn’t waive your rights to claim discrimination. (Even if you did, the waiver may not be valid).
- Gather written reviews and other documents proving your performance quality, as well as your employee manual, if published.
- Get in touch with an experienced employment lawyer.
Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.