Older adults have much to contribute to the workplace. They have years of experience that they can use to make informed decisions on behalf of the company. They can serve as mentors to younger employees. Moreover, they are just as capable at adapting to changes in the workplace as younger employees. However, sometimes an older worker is labeled a “dinosaur” with the often untrue perception that their opinions are out-of-date or they cannot keep up with changes in technology. In certain cases, if an employee is treated less favorably due to their age, this could constitute age discrimination.
Tennessee law and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits age discrimination in the workplace. The ADEA covers employees age 40 and up and is applicable to workplaces that have at least 20 employees. Under the ADEA, employers cannot commit workplace discrimination against an employee when it comes to hiring a worker, letting a worker go, promoting a worker, firing a worker, providing workers with certain benefits, giving workers certain duties and in training workers. Sometimes, this discrimination is explicit, but even acts that negatively affect workers and have no reasonable basis may still be considered unlawful discrimination. Harassment that creates a hostile work environment is also illegal.
However, there are some exceptions to the ADEA. If there is a bona fide reason to implement an age limitation in the workplace, then the ADEA may not apply. A bona fide seniority system may also be lawful. In addition, executives could be forced into retirement once they reach age 65 if they are granted a yearly pension of $44,000 or more. Finally, if there are reasonable factors aside from age to justify making decisions, this may also be an exception to the ADEA.
Applying the ADEA to one’s case can be complicated, especially given the numerous exceptions to the law. Since each case of age discrimination is unique, it is important for workers who believe they have been discriminated against to seek the help necessary to understand their rights, so they can make informed decisions about how to proceed.