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How to recognize and fight age discrimination

The American workforce includes all kinds of diverse individuals who lend their varied expertise to many fields. Older members of the workforce bring not only experience, but also hands-on knowledge from extensive time in a career field. While these are valued employees across industries, some employers continue to either ignore or actively work against the success of older employees despite state and federal legal protections.

Missouri law prohibits discrimination based on age, as does federal legislation in place for decades. Members of the workforce who suspect mistreatment due to their age should know that they have legal and employment recourse options to seek justice from this form of discrimination.

Basics of age discrimination

The U.S. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibits employers with more than 20 workers from discrimination against a person over the age of 40 based on the worker’s age. The law applies to both currently employed persons and those seeking a new position. The ADEA restricts employers from:

  • Listing age preferences in job descriptions
  • Denying benefits to older employees
  • Limiting age groups for apprenticeship programs
  • Pre-employment inquiries about a candidate’s age
  • Harassment and other mistreatment due to age

Missouri law expands coverage for persons between 40 and 70 to companies with six or more employees. Temporary work services, labor organizations and employment agencies also fall under the restrictions laid out in the Missouri Human Rights Act. This act covers a wide range of employment discrimination categories, of which age is one subset.

With both laws, restrictions may be comprehensive or subject to exemptions in some cases, such as a bona fide occupational qualification that inhibits the age demographic for a particular job. Generally speaking though, employers can’t include age preferences, require a candidate’s date of birth or graduation year when hiring as a means to use age as a deterrent. Even requiring to know a candidate’s age is a form of intimidating an older worker from seeking a particular job.

Fighting discrimination in the workplace

Identifying age discrimination in your workplace may seem challenging, but there are some telltale signs of the practice. Companies may want to cut costs by dismissing older workers who have earned certain salaries or benefits and instead pay less to a younger employee. Passing over an older candidate for a job or promotion is a primary form of age discrimination.

If you suspect potential age discrimination, seek advice and expertise from an employment law specialist for your issue. Don’t let something that seems wrong roll off your back if it means potential consequences to your career and future. Your professional contributions are worth protecting from every form of mistreatment in the workplace.

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