Age discrimination is an unlawful form of discrimination against employees or applicants over forty based upon their age. Age discrimination is prohibited by both the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and Texas law. Employers are prohibited from treating employees or applicants over the age of forty less favorably than younger employees or applicants on the basis of age. Age discrimination claims are complicated and require a high level of understanding about how discrimination law works and how particular facts come together to prove a claim of unlawful age discrimination.
How age discrimination occurs in the workplace in Texas
Age discrimination is prohibited in any part of the employment relationship, from hiring practices through termination. If you are forty or older, discrimination on the basis of age is unlawful when it has a negative effect on obtaining or keeping a job as well as the terms and conditions of employment. Common ways age discrimination can occur:
- Job advertisements
- Application processes and applicant screening
- Pre-employment inquires
- Job referrals
- Job assignments and promotions
- Compensation (both pay and benefits)
- Merit reviews, performance evaluation and raises
- Disciplinary practices
- Terminations, layoffs and reductions in force (RIF)
Two of these are most likely to form the basis of an age discrimination claims. First, the employer’s hiring practices can involve age discrimination. Employers may discriminate in hiring older employees out of a belief (whether true or untrue) that an older applicant is incapable of performing the job on the basis of age alone or that the older applicant will not remain with the company for a long period.
Second, age discrimination commonly occurs in termination practices, including reductions in force (RIF). In a RIF, the employer may seek to reduce its highest paid employees as a cost savings measure but those employees tend to be the older workers. The employer may also want to terminate specific members of management or employees in particular positions because of salary or age to bring in somebody younger or lower paid. These practices are typically prohibited age discrimination.
Age discrimination through harassment and retaliation
Age discrimination also occurs through workplace harassment. Harassment occurs when the workplace becomes hostile through the acts of coworkers or management. Harassment occurs through words, pictures, emails, job assignments, threats and even physical contact. It becomes actionable when it negatively affects your job. It is always actionable when management is perpetrating the harassment. If it is your co-workers, it becomes actionable when management has a reasonable opportunity to stop the harassment but fails to do so.
Your employer may also retaliate against you for bringing claims of age discrimination to the attention of management, HR, or a government agency. This retaliation is unlawful and creates an independent claim against your employer. Your right to work free from age discrimination includes the right to report unlawful discrimination and take steps to protect your rights.
Remedies for age discrimination in Texas
The law provides remedies to make a victim of age discrimination whole. These remedies range from requiring the employer to hire/reinstate/promote/etc. to paying for economic losses, such as lost wages while you try to find a new job. The specific remedies pursued on an age discrimination claim depend on the negative effects you suffered and what is best for you. If the company was very hostile towards you then it may not make sense to ask the court to reinstate you to your job and instead ask for the company to pay your lost wages. The job you lost may be particularly important to you so reinstatement may be the appropriate remedy.