John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
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Age discrimination could be present in popular phrase

In Minnesota workplaces, there can be a fine line between relatively harmless joking and offensiveness. People can frequently have that line blurred and inadvertently or intentionally commit acts of workplace discrimination. With the increase in social media use and the accompanying attempts at humor, it can easily cross over from chuckle-inducing to insulting. People who believe certain designations and comments fall into the category of discriminatory, and have it negatively affect their ability to do their jobs or cause them to lose the job entirely have the right to seek compensation in an employment lawsuit.

People of a certain age classified as Generation Z -- generally born in the mid-1990s -- have taken to using the term, "OK Boomer" as a joking insult to "Baby Boomers." Baby boomers are people who have reached the age range of 55 to 73. Those in that age range are shielded by age discrimination laws.

It is used on social media with images and comments. Still, there are increasing questions as to its propriety in the workplace. Human resources are debating how to address this issue. Since people, age 40 and above, are shielded by age discrimination laws, there can be no harassment and discrimination due to age. And, these and similar comments can be considered violations.

A problem for older people is that they might have challenges getting jobs or maintaining jobs because of their age. It can be hard to determine whether age was a factor in employment decisions and workplace assignments, but if there were comments about the person's age, it might have been illegal.

A co-worker making the joke with the boss aware of it could be perceived as evidence of complicity. Knowing whether one joke crossed the line can be complicated. If there was a pattern of behavior, those whose work situation was hindered could have a case for a legal filing. Age discrimination does not necessarily limit itself to older people who are "boomers," though. It can involve anyone.

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