In 2017, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging projected that the number of workers in the workforce over age 55 would rise to over 42 million by the year 2026. At that point, nearly 25 percent of the American labor force would be 55 or older. The traditional retirement age of 65 also no longer reflects reality for many, with nearly one-third of Americans continuing to work past the age of 65. The nature of our economy and the set of necessary workforce skills are both changing faster than ever, so it is now vitally important that older workers are protected in the workplace and have ample access to job opportunities and job training.
Fortunately, older workers in America are protected against age-based discrimination under both the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Texas Labor Code. If you are over 40 years old and your employer has 15 or more employees, it cannot target you because of your age. Prohibited actions may include being fired, demoted, laid off, or denied benefits that other younger employees receive. It doesn't matter if the people discriminating against you are older or younger than you.Some Things to Watch Out For
It is uncommon for employers to state outright that a worker is being treated differently because of their age. Instead, most age discrimination cases rely on circumstantial evidence. For example, if you notice that younger, less qualified employees are receiving more opportunities for training, promotion, or advancement, or even receiving different benefits, that may be evidence of age discrimination.
The prohibition on age discrimination also applies to applicants. If you learn that a less qualified or less experienced younger employee was hired for a position over you, that could be evidence of age discrimination. Our Austin age discrimination lawyers will be able to help you make a claim in court.
Sometimes employers use coded language to disguise age discrimination. For example, if your boss says they think the company needs a more youthful perspective, tells you to bring more energy to the job, or tells you that "fresh blood" is needed, that could be evidence of age discrimination. If your boss always calls you "old man" or "grandma," that might show that your age is being used against you. You should also be on the lookout for persistent questions about your retirement plans or jokes about you "needing to retire soon." In most industries, pressuring or requiring an employee to retire is illegal.
Mass layoffs or job eliminations sometimes target older workers. If you are laid off from your job along with most of your older coworkers, that could be age discrimination. Depending on the size of the layoff and the number of employees affected, you might even be entitled to receive information on the ages and responsibilities of everyone that was laid off at the same time. If you were the only one laid off, that can also be suspicious, especially if you're in a job where almost everyone is younger than you.When Can You Make a Claim?
While not every employer is subject to the Texas Labor Code or ADEA, most are. Under Texas law, age discrimination is prohibited for employers who have more than 15 employees. Under federal law, your employer must have more than 20 employees. Part-time employees and independent contractors may count towards that employee minimum. If you work for state or local government, there is no minimum number of employees needed for protection under the law.
There are also limits on how long you can wait to bring a claim after an instance of age discrimination occurs. In Texas, you could have anywhere from 180 days (under state law) to 300 days (under federal law), depending on the details of your case. Since these time limits are strict, it's important to talk to a lawyer immediately if you believe you have been a victim of such discrimination. If you think you've been discriminated against or retaliated against, or if you think you have a case, please contact one of our Austin age discrimination lawyers today. You can do so by filling out our contact form or calling our office at (512) 271-5527.