"Respect your elders" is a phrase that most people in Minnesota are familiar with. And, for the most part, people follow this age-old advice. But, as with most things, there can be instances when people don't live up to the standards that society sets. In the workplace, if someone is discriminated against due to their age, it could result in an employment discrimination lawsuit.
Many of our readers have likely seen news reports about how the American workforce is aging. Indeed, the so-called, "baby boomer" generation is starting to reach retirement age. But, many older workers remain vital employees.
Age discrimination is a topic that is concerning to both employees and employers in Minnesota. A recent article noted that this type of discrimination may in fact be the biggest challenge that employers will face in the coming years. This is particularly true when one considers the gradual aging of the American workforce, and how long the so-called "baby boomers" will want to work.
Discrimination can come in many different forms in the workplace. Race and gender discrimination are probably the most commonly known basis for lawsuits, so our readers may not realize that discrimination can also occur based on a worker's age.
When employees in Minnesota have years of experience at their job, many employers will view that as a valuable resource. These employees know how the business works, they know who to contact in certain situations and they can pass on that knowledge as they train new employees. However, as is true in other situations involving race, gender or disabilities, it is not unheard of for some employers to discriminate against employees based on their age.
An entire generation of Americans known as the "baby boomers" are reaching the age when many are probably thinking about retirement. However, the recent economic troubles our country has gone through in the last decade may have left many in Minnesota and across the nation on the outside looking in at that dream -- and perhaps forced to make employment changes.
Older workers in Minnesota bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the workplace,. Unfortunately, some employers view them as "dinosaurs," too expensive and out-of-touch to either hire or keep around. However, under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act or ADEA, employers who have at least 20 employees cannot discriminate against any worker between the ages of 40 to 65 in hiring workers, promoting workers, laying off workers or other employment actions. In fact, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of this law.
Older workers in Minnesota and across the nation have a lot to offer their employers. Their years of experience often makes them strong employees in their chosen fields. Moreover, they can serve as mentors to younger workers, passing on their knowledge and through that making the entire workplace stronger.
As Minnesota residents may know, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits those age 40 and older from being discriminated against in the workplace. However, the question of how this type of discrimination applies to those above age 50 in comparison for those between ages 40 and 50 has come up in a number of cases, one of which might end up going before the United States Supreme Court. The Act doesn't prohibit all discrimination based on age, just that affecting those over age 40. Therefore, if an employer gives preference to someone who is age 20 over someone age 30, this isn't covered by the Act.
Older workers in Minnesota are a valuable asset to their employers, as they can provide their wisdom and years of experience to others in the workplace. Unfortunately, some employers do not have this attitude about older workers. Perhaps they want to cut costs, and younger workers may not be paid as much as those with more seniority. Or they may have prejudices against older workers, viewing them in an unfavorable light. However, the U.S. Government recognizes that age discrimination in the workplace should not be tolerated, and has enacted laws against it.